Monday, February 13, 2012

A bit maudlin: Aug. 28, 2011

Sometimes I am just hopelessly sentimental. OK, more than sometimes. This one might be the champion of that phenomenon.

It's kind of pretty, though.

Goodbye to summer, and to my little boys

    My 11-year-old son has gotten hip to the harsh realities of linear time.

    As I talked with him at bedtime recently, he lamented the end of yet another summer.

    “It went so fast,” he said. “It seems like every summer gets shorter.”

    “That’s how time works,” I said. “The older you get, the faster it seems to go.”

    He looked vaguely alarmed, then sighed.

    “I miss the old days, when I was 4 and things were simple,” he said.

    My sons have a real knack for putting into words what I’m working through in my own mind. (And anyone who thinks they’re hiding anything from their children is just fooling themselves.) 

    As I creep up on 40, as my older son enters middle school and my younger hits first grade, I’m experiencing my first serious pangs of maternal nostalgia. The worst symptom is that I’m finding it almost painful to look at pictures from their baby and toddler days: The clouds of soft, wild hair framing round, open faces. Those infant grins, all gums and guilelessness. The dimpled, sticky hands. 

    The babies in those photos are long gone.

    I’ve never been one to mourn change – I’ve always relished each milestone and enjoyed watching my boys get bigger and smarter and stronger. But these days, my guys are all angles and attitude and energy, taller by the minute and so completely, clearly their own people that I’m managing a houseful of big personalities in addition to tackling the constantly unfolding logistics of family life.

    So this isn’t the weepy witnessing of first steps or first haircuts or even first days of school: This is the moment when I can suddenly see the outlines of men they will become.

    There’s nothing like it, this parenting gig. It takes everything you have, it gives you everything worth having and then – just when you’ve got the hang of it – you clearly see that it’s a temporary job. The goal is to work your way to obsolescence.

    But we have a ways to go yet.

    “I know time is going really fast and it can be a little sad, but you still have a lot of fun things to look forward to,” I told my son (and myself) as I tucked him in for the night.

    “The older you get, the bigger and smarter you get and the more you can do. And one day, you will look back at the summer you were 11 and remember how fun it was.”

    He nodded sleepily and settled in for the night. We both know I’m right about this. Of course I’m right. 

    But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to accept the harsh realities of linear time -- especially when those realities mean the end of such a sweet, bright season.

Gone, baby, gone.

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