Sunday, April 25, 2010


Only a child could enjoy picking up trash this much. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

I’ve been having a lot of revelations lately as I continue to steam through middle age. Most, unfortunately, are a bit depressing. Like the one I had last fall when it suddenly dawned on me that the poor trees in Michigan spend more months naked and bare, than they do fully clad in leaves. But some are a little lighter. Like the one that hit me last week while driving home from baseball practice with my 10-year-old son and his three buddies, as they joyously held a farting contest in the backseat of my car.

With every successive blast came a roar of laughter from the boys, who also discovered that their protective cups doubled nicely as bongo drums. Really, what could be funnier than a group of 10-year old boys testing the limits of flatulence as they pounded out a nice beat on their plastic-covered groins?

As I rolled down my window to give us all a little breathing room, I had another revelation: "This is the best time of my son’s life and he doesn’t even know it!" 

In hindsight, this revelation didn’t just “hit me” the moment I began gasping for fresh air, this one actually had been brewing all day.

It started that morning when I was taking pictures of elementary kids cleaning up their school grounds as part of Earth Day. It was there where I realized that only a kid could possibly enjoy picking up trash this much. Not only enjoy it, but practically revel in it. With all the dancing, and frolicking about with trash bags, it looked more like the set of “The Sound of Music, than a schoolyard.

“When does this end?” I thought to myself. “When do kids stop having fun picking up trash? When do boys stop using their protective cups as a drum kit? When are farts no longer funny?” (Okay, maybe never on that last one).

Like every other parent in this world, I’m learning as I go. Sure, there are a lot of manuals on the subject. I read plenty of them when my wife was pregnant with our first child. But once you actually have a kid, who has time to read?

Fairly quickly, I realized an infant’s life, and parenting, could be divided into a series of stages. Some last but a few weeks, some a lot longer. Some have very definite beginnings and endings (the actual birth, for example) some are more gradual (teething, potty training, etc.) As my kids got older, the stages changed, getting longer, but no less important - goodbye diapers, hello puberty!

When I was a new parent, I couldn’t wait for my kids to move on to their next stage. But now, as a middle-aged parent, things are different. Now, I want to hold on to things a bit longer. Now, I no longer think of them as stages. To me they’ve become windows. Windows, that I know, will shut soon enough.

Luckily, my wife and I had our three kids fairly close together. Back then, with two kids in diapers at all times, it seemed like a curse, but now it seems to have paid off, because I’m able to relate to all three of them at the same level as they plow though life … as I plow through life.

But this window of time I’m in right now is the best. This is the window I really want to keep open. The one I envisioned when I became a parent. The time where my kids, for the most part, still really like me … and I still really like them. I know this is cyclical. I know they’ll hate me soon enough as they begin dating … and driving … and doing all those other things that make a parent have to step up and put their foot down - but not now.

Now, I’ll enjoy all the ball games and the trips to the zoo. I’ll relish every family vacation, knowing full well that this is most likely as good as it’s going to get. At the moment, we’re a very busy, but harmonious unit. I wish this time could last forever, but I know it won’t. 

I’ll gladly settle for a few more years before this window closes for good. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep that window open so I can enjoy the fresh air as much as I enjoy the laughter coming from the backseat of my car.




1 comment:

  1. I think it is being in this window... a rare time where it is good for EVERYONE that is what you will miss, not that it is 'the best time'...

    ...because one day, he will have son(s) of his own andhe will experience the same kind of moment as you... and perhaps he will say THAT is the best time of his life... as you should revel in what I think would be among the very best time of your life...

    ...I am a little envious that my choices led me in such a stark and strange direction. Spent a week with one of my girls (I have three, with different women) and we talked at length and I want to say we bonded. Our conversations seem to be more 'there' by phone and I think she 'gets' more of me and I her.

    But we will never have what you had and reading this story reminds me of what I relinquished. Anywho, when he has that moment of reflection as you did, perhaps that will be his 'best time of life', knowing that he made the best choices and is able to revel in the fruit they bore him.