Children just don’t have a sense of nostalgia
Vail CO, Colorado
Last Friday night, during our family birthday party for Max, I couldn’t help indulging in that most saccharine of parental activities: the day-you-were-born lookback. With Max shrinking in his seat, half-smile frozen on his face, I told him about the drive down to Denver with his mom, the decision to induce labor, the long wait, the epidural and, my favorite part ” the way he wrapped his fist around my pinky when he came out.
“I know it’s a cliche to say this,” I told him. “But it just doesn’t seem possible that was 14 years ago!”
Max shrugged, his shoulders saying, “Look, this is how old I am. Deal with it.
I also told Max that I wrote a number of newspaper columns about him when he was first born, no doubt strongly believing that what was so interesting to me at the time must’ve been interesting to readers. Nevertheless, I do have a fairly decent written log of what I was feeling as I became a dad for the first time: Would he like to see the columns?
Again, some movement with shoulders. A quiet kid, Max communicates mostly with shrugs, and I’ve learned to interpret them over the years. This time, he was saying something like “I’m not ready to look at this material just yet, Dad. Perhaps when I’m older. Although it’s hard to imagine caring even then.”
Well, they’re in the archives, if he ever wants to look.
I still have friends who, upon seeing Andy, our kindergartner, say “Oh, is that Max?” When I tell them no, that Max is now 14, they are stunned. That’s because there’s almost no more stark gauge for how old you’re getting than when you observe the children of your friends and family. The kid comes out, he or she is a cute baby for a while, then maybe you don’t see the family for a while and the next time you bump into them the kid has a goatee, an attitude and a year or two of college under his belt.
How could that possibly be?
Jen and I routinely remind all our kids about different times in their lives. Photos pop up constantly on the laptop screensaver that’s usually perched next to Jen’s spot on the couch, and she’ll call out an interesting shot for all to view. There’s Austin, in his diapers, with wild hair holding his little sister’s hand. So cute! Meanwhile, the 2008 Austin is standing there, face a-bristle with his proto beard, pants sagging around his ankles, looking about as much like the kid in the photo as tadpole to frog.
These later birthdays are bittersweet. We cheer the progress toward the next stage while, as parents, we contemplate the inevitable place this is all going: children leaving the home. When the older ones muse aloud about how great it’ll be to be off to college or whatever, it’s hard not to feel a little wounded. Sure, we know they’re going, but they shouldn’t be too eager, we think. Silly, of course, but perhaps not an uncommon feeling for parents of teens.
A few years ago, my mother sent me some pages from my “baby book,” in which she’d recorded some observations from me from birth up to about age 10. Since I was the last of four, she confessed, my book was a little thinner than the earlier kids, but it was still interesting to read about myself as a young child. Part of the reason I write this column is that it’s my version of the “baby book,” and I’d be surprised if, some day, the kids (or their children) don’t find it interesting.
In the present, though, they appear to be more content to live their lives sans commentary.
Managing editor Alex Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 748-2920.
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