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School’s Not Yet Out

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.

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13 thoughts on “School’s Not Yet Out

  1. You write about your kids a lot more than you might think. I enjoy it because it always is relevant to the topic and not just what they did that day. It is better to not do it all the time and I think I get to know them as kids this way. I hope that does not make you more paranoid however!

  2. I remember these days as well. Teens can be a real handful but when they ‘get it’ they are a real joy after all. Hang in there and I’m sure the best days are yet to come.

  3. Thanks, everyone! My kids are very good and I have a great relationship with them. My oldest is about 15 now, just finished Freshman year of HS. No real problems at all, to be honest, and they are a joy to be with.

  4. Well I just went thru a real graduation and by the way things have changed from 35 years ago. There are often now somewhat large graduation parties. The kid invites his 12-30 friends, you invite relatives and other meaningful people (fellow parents, neighbors, church folk etc.). The kids spend their next three weekends going to two or more parties a day. My wife and I had one or two hellacious arguements [she was invading my last domain (the deep backyard near the railroad tracks) and ordered some hot food that only tastes good when it is fresh like really fresh so I got her to order something that kept better). Oh well on to the part where I offer some frsh ideas for you. One I gotta read field negro more often, I do not know why I don’t visit it more often. Two is censorship vs. lying. My mind had a scary image (dark angels) and I probably could have repressed it but I didn’t. With the passing of gill Scott Heron of the revolution will not be televised we lost a voice . I mean lately I’ve been more old fat men riding mototcycles than young men if that’s not a rallying cry for a revolution I do not know what is.

  5. Maybe what I am getting at is the lack of a family wage for many young women and men. It used to be a young guy got a m bike before he had kids and sold it when his wife delivered an ultimatum cuz #2 was on the way. Now we got old farts pulling double wages and living single. There oughta be a song.

  6. In my experience thus far, the love you invest in your children is repaid with interest. It keeps getting better.

  7. i just wish that they would stop making me feel so old… Question: what did you do without mapquest? Answer: we learned how to read a map.
    Question: how did you spend your time before Facebook? Answer: Facebook? oh dear.

  8. Jack: Thank you – I can feel that already.

    LZ – the inter-generational war is getting to be a bit much. I think someone needs a week or two without all these fancy toys. We weren’t “lame” for not having that stuff, we were real – and a lot tougher, I think.

  9. Erik, this is such a great post, and so timely for me, as I’ve just arrived home from my youngest son’s college graduation. I, too, have chosen not to share much about my two sons online: not because I don’t love them to bits and would love to share my pride in them with the world, but because I respect their privacy. I believe their stories are their stories, and they can and will tell them in their own voice.

    I think you’re very wise to have crafted your life to “be there” for your children as much as possible. All us “oldsters” will tell you: they grow up so fast…cherish each moment.

    I love boomerjack’s comment: “In my experience thus far, the love you invest in your children is repaid with interest. It keeps getting better.” I agree wholeheartedly. Cheers! Kaarina

  10. It was nice chatting with you at the cafe today! I will be subscribing. You have reminded me as well I need to do more work on my own blog. As for the recent extreme heat, I avoid it. That stuff makes me faint.

  11. Pingback: Unwinnable Games | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

  12. A lovely post on a difficult topic. You want your kids to be so much and then as they grow up it seems so sad to let them go. I still don’t know what to make of it all and I don’t think I ever will.

  13. Grace: With summer actually started, I’m spending a lot of time with my kids now. It is a wonderful thing – I only wish I didn’t have to work and could do the most important thing I know to do, which is raise them to be smart and kind and perceptive and the best citizens they can be. They are both well on their way, and I am very proud of them!

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