One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of parenting is how quickly it can feel our children are growing up, how rapidly we move from one parenting stage to another. Some of those moments are very clear, marked for all the world to see…things like graduating elementary school, high school, college, etc. At those moments it is easy for parents to take a moment and reflect on how far they and their kids have come in this amazing and crazy thing we call life.
But there are hundreds, dare I say thousands, of moments in our parenting lives where an important milestone is reached, but we don’t know it at the time. We don’t realize we just experienced the end of one phase and the beginning of another.
Yesterday, my wife and I spent the day pretending we were parents of only one child. While we have 13 year-old twins, our daughter was with some friends and we took our son, Lucas, out to try and make his room nicer. We spent the afternoon at IKEA, bought him a bed frame and new sheets as well as some other stuff (you can’t walk out of IKEA without “other stuff”). We also spent quality time at Hot Topic (AKA Emo Heaven). All three of us had a great time, my wife and I being able to only focus on one child, which is a rarity for us, and Lucas not having to share anything–including us–all afternoon. It will definitely be remembered as a special day.
At one point, however, I turned to Gem and said, “He really is a teenager, isn’t he?” It’s not something I can pinpoint, but watching him walk around, interact with the world, it was so clear to me he’s not our little boy anymore. Now, sure you can say, didn’t he just have his Bar Mitzvah? And he certainly didn’t look like a little boy there. Maybe it was the mall environment, but he seemed different. There was something about the way he moved, the way he handled himself that made it clear he is growing up, more a young man than a little boy.
When did that happen?
While there are several moments, more formal rites of passage, marking transitions from one phase of life to another, so many moments are never marked and by the time you realize it, the moment has long passed, leaving a little sense of loss, of what we miss, mixed with the joy and pride of seeing our children in this new phase.
I don’t remember the last diaper I changed. All of a sudden, we were no longer changing them. I don’t remember the last time we used the double stroller, but I remember it being in the basement and feeling a sense of loss. What was the last bedtime story I read to our children? When was the last time I carried one of them up the stairs to bed after getting home late at night?
These special moments, moments that I both enjoyed and probably complained about (except carrying them to bed–I never once complained about that), happen and then disappear like those little babies and toddlers we so easily held in our arms. Where are those children? When did those moments end?
Watching my litt–I’m sorry. Watching my teenager, my young man yesterday made me not only realize that there are so many moments of parenting that are gone, that I’ll never experience again. And there is a genuine sense of loss over that, the passage of time, a feeling we may never feel again.
But it was also an excellent reminder that all that work is paying off. He is growing up into a healthy, creative, intelligent and pretty damn awesome young man.
When I kissed and hugged him goodnight last night, he thanked me for hanging out with him in Hot Topic.
And I realized that it’s not that these special moments are gone as they grow older–they’re just different. If Hot Topic was a special moment for him then I am already looking forward to the next time we go there.
Whether it is Hot Topic or something else, I just want to be ready to enjoy whatever new special moments we can create together.