I hear it all the time. Strangers asking strangers the most offensive of questions.
“How long are you going to do that for?” asks one of a mother still breastfeeding her 2-year-old. “Isn’t she getting a little old?”
“I see he's still not toilet trained.” says another of a stranger's 3 year old. “Isn’t he getting too old for nappies?”
I don't know how many times I’ve heard people question whether a child was too old for something - drink from a glass, use a dummy, sit in a pusher - the list goes on. Primary school kids who still sleep with a blankie or special friend are viewed suspiciously. Strangers tut 3 year olds who haven't mastered the toilet. And old people consistently complain about teenagers who dress up as their comic book heroes for fun.
Sometimes I feel like I missed the memo reminding me that there are official age limits on everything.
It seems that we adults have created these arbitrary cut-off ages for certain activities because we feel like parents are doing something wrong if they allow their kids to do something beyond what we consider “normal.”
Of course, there are some habits or behaviours that we as parents do need to wean kids off of within a reasonable time for their own good butt the point is this: those limits aren’t for random strangers or nosy neighbours to decide.
"But it's not normal." I hear the sticky-beaks cry.
My retort is simple, "What is normal?".
You see, there’s so much (like everything) that we don’t know about people we don't know. The teenager who can’t sleep without her teddy bear? Maybe she suffers from debilitating anxiety. That big kid riding in the supermarket trolley? Maybe he's one of those kids who looks several years older than he is. The tween who still believes in Santa might just really love fantasy. And that 8 year old who still sleeps in her parents’ room might just be from a culture where that's completely normal.
Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of different points of view. For example, my 6 year old is getting pretty heavy now and carrying her is tough work. So I rarely do. Especially seeing as her legs work just fine. But dammit, if she's tired, I will carry her. I'm sure some people will see that as coddling, but I see it as being helpful and showing compassion. Hell, if I could carry my wife when her legs get tired, I'd do that too.
Nobody has the right to judge what is right for another family. If I see a child who seems too old to be doing something, I remind myself that every family, every parent, and every child is different, and unless there’s a serious health or safety issue at play, it’s not my place to have an opinion about their choices.
And it is certainly never my place to voice an opinion about their choices without being asked.
So if you see a kid who seems too old for whatever they are doing, ask yourself: Are they being harmed by this? Might there be circumstances I don't understand? But most importantly...
Is it really any of my business?
Kids develop at different rates and they eventually outgrow just about everything. Unless you're asked or legitimately concerned, there’s no reason to make a judgement about anything.
You do you, and let other families do them.