A few months ago, I was strapping Coffeeson into his carseat. We were getting ready to go to preschool that morning, and I had just encouraged him to climb in so that I could buckle everything around him. I can't pretend to know why or remember what prompted it, but as I was clipping everything together he said, "I'm not bigger yet."
My best guess is that it was a commentary on having to sit in the carseat. It will be years before he can sit in a regular seat and wear a seatbelt like his parents. The context of the statement supports my theory, but it's only a theory. He could have been thinking about something else, or perhaps he just felt like saying it. I doubt he remembers that moment, so I can't ask him about it now. So here I am, that statement still with me: "I'm not bigger yet."
There's something about the word "yet" that is hopeful. There's something about that word that points out that something is inevitable. You're not something now, but you will be at some future point in time. You can't do something now, but eventually, when you have the size, the money, the experience, the practiced ability, you will. I haven't done this, seen this, been this yet. But I will. Just give me time. You'll see. And maybe the word is used patiently, or maybe the person saying it can't wait. Not yet. But someday.
Whatever "I'm not bigger yet" meant that day, Coffeeson knows that he'll get bigger. He's not yet, but eventually just wait and see. And when he's bigger, he'll do all sorts of things.
He's already doing some of them. We've moved the changing table out of his bedroom and into the eventual new nursery, and soon we'll swap out his daybed for a pair of "big boy beds." Just the other day, he decided he's done with his booster seat for meals; now he sits in a regular chair like Mommy and Daddy. He knows how to work electronic devices already and feels perfectly capable of starting his own DVDs. He's potty-trained save for nighttime, but we're working on that. And we're just beginning to phase out sippy cups. He can already drink out of regular cups, but sippy cups are handy for school days.
I like to think that it really wasn't that long ago that I was changing diapers a dozen times a day and warming bottles another dozen, when he was just learning to roll over and otherwise was content on his playmat. But those days are really more in the past than I want to admit. Back then he wasn't bigger yet, but now he is. And he's not bigger yet to do some other things, but he will be.
I wonder how much of parents lamenting their children growing up has to do with being needed. Coffeeson still needs me to do plenty. He still needs me to cut his food for him and to help button shirts, to get a leg up onto a high chair and to pour more juice into his cup. He still needs me to hold him when he's sad or scared, to read to him at night and to assure him that I'm nearby when he's falling asleep. He's not bigger yet to not need these things from me, but he will be.
And then what will I do? What will I be able to do for him? I suppose that I can still help him navigate his first years at school. I can still help him learn how to drive. I can help him visit and apply to colleges, or help him pick a trade. I can help him with questions about church and faith, such as I understand those things myself. I can help him with questions about love and death, and baseball and music. There will also be times when I feel completely helpless, like I'll have nothing to offer except my love and support in those hard life lessons that you just end up learning whether you want to or not.
No, you're not bigger yet, little friend. You're not bigger yet to sit in a regular car seat or tie your own shoes. You're not bigger yet to ride the bus or do algebra. You're not bigger yet to drive or ask a girl to prom or graduate high school. You're not bigger yet to wrestle with the big abstract questions that don't really seem to have satisfactory answers.
You're not bigger yet for any of that. But I'm okay with waiting a while until you are.