It was a long hard Winter. It’s not letting go too easily here in the heartland, with Spring coming in short fits just long enough to give us all hope. But the transition is as bright as the green carpet of grass that covers the park, as pervasive as the smell of rain in the air, and as loud as the excitement along West Seventh Street. Each moment finds its own pace.
My daughter Thryn will graduate from High School in less than a month. Her dreams of hitting the road and finding a life beyond childhood color everything in her attitude now. The dark senioritis that wants to laze the last few moments collapses into anxiety in unpredictable fits of realization. Soon enough it really will be all about her, the desires of every teen made starkly real.
For her doting Dad it’s time to let go. As a parent, I can’t be good at everything.
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 should, 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 been forced to 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, and some of those lessons come directly from the kids.
We are now on the edge of the moment when the world becomes theirs. My son George still has four years before he graduates, but his maturity and perception is astonishing. Thryn, for her part, is more than ready to make her own mark on the world. I don’t have to grill either of them on any of the finer parts anymore – they know already. They know more than I do sometimes. Life is good that way.
One last summer with Thryn stands between what has defined my life for 18 years and the next part of our lives. Northland College is waiting for her. Soon they will see what a smart, kind, and connected person she has become. I couldn’t possibly more proud even as I have to move on myself. I don’t know which of us will find the transition harder.
But first, there are the moments when we feel the changes happening in every moment around us. They are worth savoring as if they were the last time because, this cautious Spring, they are.