As my wife and I were lying in bed the other night, about to turn out the lights and go to sleep, my 4-year-old son, Luke, barged into our bedroom, turned the corner like the expert Mario Kart racer that he is, and barreled down the short hallway yelling, “Bathroom!” Apparently, a sibling was hogging the kids’ bathroom on the other side of the house, and this was no time for pleasantries.
A minute later, I heard the toilet flush, and then a squeal of joy. He sprinted out of the bathroom as fast as he had gone in, this time yelling, “I weighed the pounds I’m supposed to!”
“What are you talking about?” my wife, Hailey, asked.
“I weighed 40-point-oh!” Luke said. He kept repeating, “Yes! Yes!”
Then we realized the significance of his announcement. Whenever Luke travels in our car or minivan, we always strap him into a three-point harness car seat. He’s not a fan, and I can understand why: With all those straps and the cinching mechanism, it resembles a Medieval torture device. When he complains about it, however, we tell him that we cannot get rid of the car seat and get a simple booster seat until he weighs 40 pounds, because the booster seat says it’s for 40 pounds and up.
The thing is, Luke knows that some of his friends are already out of their car seats, so he feels like the only kid who has to live by this strict rule. But, as with many parenting decisions made by Hailey and me, it’s motivated by a fear of regret: What if we let him out of the car seat at 39 pounds, and the next day, we get into a car crash, and he gets hurt?
Nope, not worth it. The booster is only for kids who weigh 40 and up. If you want the booster, finish your sandwich.
In his quest to hit 40, he has learned some distorted views of dieting, just by listening to the chatter about nutrition facts around the house.
One day at lunch, I heard Luke rattling off some numbers: “Sixty-nine grams of protein, 44 grams of fiber, zero cholesterol,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What’s that?”
He held up a ketchup bottle.
“I think you’re making that up, Luke.”
At the conclusion of one trip to Publix, Luke insisted on walking by the enormous scale, which he calls, The Pound Weigher. But even with his clothes and shoes on, he was still under 40.
Occasionally, he would give us updates: 37.8, 38.6, 39.8.
But not tonight. He hit the magic number. It was a moment of pride. A rite of passage. Freedom from the three-point harness.
At breakfast the next morning, Luke told his 8-year-old sister, Kennedy, the news: He would be sitting in a booster seat today.
Kennedy responded: “He achieved something. Now he gets to have a normal life.”
For Luke, it seemed life would be much better than “normal.”
As he got in his booster on the way to school, he started singing, “This is going to be the best day of my li-i-i-ife.”
Luke is a naturally happy person, and it’s contagious. As I watched him in my rearview mirror as he smiled and exulted in the back seat, as he reached up and touched the light above his seat for the first time, I was genuinely happy for him, and even more, I was happy for the many milestones and rites of passage to come. Life gets better and better, my son, just you wait. Just keep smiling and celebrating.