Matt McHugh

Matt - September - 2010


Blog Archive


Childhood's End


September 21, 2010

My kids are still young. 7 and 9. Not babies, certainly, but still undoubtedly kids. They watch cartoons. They play with toys. They're not quite sure what sex is (7-year-old girl, no clue; 9-year-old boy, some idea but still lots of vague misconceptions). They still, most of the time, want me to be around and interact with them (though, again, the 9-year-old will kick me out of his room more often than not). In short, they're kids... and they're growing up.

I won't invoke the it-goes-by-so-fast cliche. Some of the longest hours of my life have been spent dealing with difficult children. Einstein once explained relativity as "Sitting on a tack for a minute seems like an hour, but an hour spent with a beautiful woman seems to pass in a minute." Along those lines, try a three-hour birthday party with screaming five-year-olds, if you want to feel time stand still. Conversely, nearly a decade as a parent seems to have just gone *poof*. And I was there, every step of the way. There are no gaps in my memory, yet it all seems compressed, smaller than I recall--like seeing a mountain you climbed recede in the window of a jet airliner. Distance blurs the details.

For the first time in this adventure, I am acutely aware that I do not want my children to grow up. Up till now, I was always wishing for them to be older, to walk, talk, play, obey, communicate, and be independent in a manner just a bit beyond their age of the moment. I no longer wish that. Yes, they can be unreasonable sometimes, but they are past that maddening span of pre-K irrationality. They are little beings that think and speak and defy with purpose. This I find much easier to deal with, and much more interesting, than an adorable, tantrumy toddler. My daughter delights in insulting me. My son can actually one-up my sarcasm. Yet they still can't wait to see what Santa or the Tooth Fairy will bring them. Why would anyone want this time to end?

But, end it must. I can feel it coming. Not a time when they will no longer love me, but a day when they will simply -- without defiance or meanness -- have no interest in anything I can offer them. It's they way of things, and I well know it. And, I have no doubt, I will hasten the process by continuing to treat them like the children I desperately wish for them to be long after they've passed beyond the point where they need to separate themselves from childhood. All parents do, clinging to bygone images of the babies we loved in degrees we can only measure in retrospect. In the end, it's much harder for us to grow up than it is for them.

-- mm

  |  Blog Archive Page

This Website and all contents © 2002-2010 Matt McHugh. All rights reserved.