For those of us in Minnesota, there is little to talk about today except the extraordinary weather. From 102F yesterday to a predicted 48F tonight, we’re in the middle of a 54F drop in about 35 hours. This is what can happen in the middle of a vast continent.
The heat wave hit people as many different ways as we coped with a small emergency. The strangest effect was to highlight the awkward hot days at the end of the school year, the time when summer beckons to the kids before they can laze their way through the heat of the day. Oppressive heat made the classrooms warmer, recess drippier, and the slow progress of the day a bit heavier.
To me, it made the odd stillness at graduation time more pronounced. My kids are getting older and they are not little anymore. The day they move on is coming closer.
I rarely write about my own kids for many reasons. Many of the “Mommy Blogs” written as a diary of daily life raising children seem to be a terrible invasion of privacy for those too young to defend themselves. I’m also a paranoid person by nature, having seen violence as up close as anyone can, so I tend to fear predators. I also think it’s just terribly unfair to steal anyone else’s story and claim it as your own without at least acknowledging your own perspective – something that’s tricky for a parent.
Nevertheless, my kids are the center of my life. Since I became divorced in 2003 I have only held a few “real” day jobs because I want to pick them up at school every day so that I can be a part of their daily life.
Watching children grow up into intelligent, articulate, caring and strong adults is what life is ultimately all about to me. It has provided frames for my own childhood that hangs those pictures up in my mind, defining their own space apart from the right now. I have had no choice but to grow with my kids and accept my roles as protector, teacher, and so many other things that come with it.
Watching them grow has always been a wonderful experience. Among heaps of old fashioned quantity time I enjoy long conversations where I sometimes grill them on history to make sure that they got what I was talking about. My daughter says that the correct answer is usually either the Romans, the Treaty of Westphalia, Napoleon, or the Cold War when I ask them what really made a historical event. Clearly, I need to branch out a bit. But it is a great joy passing on the knowledge of life and developing the imagination that will connect my children into the web of human experience.
But there are moments when I realize that they are not little anymore and the things that thrilled them in the energy of those moments have faded. Chasing down bugs, picking dandelions, playing in the sand – those days are not photos in their own minds, hastily stuffed into a drawer awaiting the day that they have their own frames to put them up properly. As surely as I have given them all of my love and most of what I know already, to the point of repeating myself, they have given me the energy of a child again. Being a Dad means you learn everything as you go – some of those lessons come directly from the kids.
This is the time of year when summer creeps into the calendar, the heat telling us that it is time for so many kids to move on and start finding lives and careers of their own. Perhaps, like so many these days, my kids will have to live in the same house long after this process has started. That is how it is in many other cultures, and I can’t say that it would not be a good thing. What I’m sure of is that their lives are moving a bit away from what Dad has given them in his best effort to get them ready for it all.
Today the stale musty smell of rented graduation robes slices through the humid air. I can smell it even though it is not my own kids’ time. But it will come soon enough, in a sudden wave like the arrival of summer in the middle of a big continent.