Childhood

Our baby turns ten this weekend.  Our youngest, our last, our smallest is growing up and before we know it, he will be a young man.  I wonder how much longer we have before he is an adolescent.  How many more times will we walk home from school (me on the sidewalk and Josh on the retaining walls) and he will use a stick as a sword?  How many more unsolicited hugs will my wife and I receive?  How many more nights will he choose to wear Minions© pajamas?  Having been through this process of watching my child grow up three times before, I know that when the ‘last time’ for all these activities will come, and we will not recognize what is happening or what we will be losing.

I still have time.  Josh still wants toys and games as gifts for his birthday and Christmas.  He still likes to color and play board games (frequently asking to have a F.G.N. – family game night).  But one day all that will have changed.  It will not happen overnight, but one day it will all be gone; the snuggling, the wild imagination and the carefree play will be replaced with tacit acknowledgment, pragmatism and smart phone usage.  So, this week I will celebrate my youngest child’s childhood.  We will have a party (with cake and ice cream) with games around his chosen Pokemon© theme, and we will appreciate our boy.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.    1 Corinthians 13:11

I have to admit that I have a tough time accepting the reality that my children are getting older.  I still worry (just a bit) when one of my children is not at home.  I still want to offer fatherly advice and get a laugh from dad jokes.  I still want the unsolicited hugs and the early morning raids into my bedroom.  They are my kids, even though they are 23, 20, 17 and (on Sunday) 10.

So, excuse me if I encourage my youngest to continue to wear the one-piece pajamas that are too small.  Forgive me if I let him sit in my lap in the recliner as we watch Wheel of Fortune (and let him think that he solved one of the puzzles before me).  Apologies if I laugh at his jokes, which may have been shared three (or three hundred) times before, as if it were the first time I had heard them.  Mea culpa if I let him swing that stick (or rake or bat or broom) and allow him to pretend for a while.  Let me say, for just a little longer, “He’s just a boy.”

Before I know it, my youngest son will be a man and the days of childhood things will have passed.  That is not a day I look forward to seeing anytime soon.  Happy 10th birthday, Joshua.

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One response

  1. One of your best, Mike.

    It seems that everyone, at one time or another, will yearn for “their early years” for their own reasons. My childhood was far from idyllic but there were the bright spots enough to keep me going. The most critical endearing aspect I remember was one little seen today: camaraderie: playing with many other children in the neighborhood. Often, ten or fifteen of us, would choose sides for a game of Cowboys and Indians, or Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, Tag and even Hide and Go Seek. We would play during the day and also after dinner/supper at night under 8PM or so. We also ranged far and wide – at seven I would often walk alone two miles from my neighborhood to the nearest shopping area, to the hobby shop to purchase paint for my models, to watch a jeweler repair a watch in his shop’s window or maybe just “window shop”. The bustle of the many local markets always warranted my attraction.

    And on Saturday mornings, a group of we 7-8 year olds would walk several miles west to the Rivoli Theater for the Kiddie Matinee, often wearing our cowboy holsters and cap pistols, cowboy hats, et al, if the main feature was a Hopalong Cassidy or Tom Mix feature. Our return trip would perhaps devolve into a Cowboys and Indians, or Stagecoach Robbers in the wooded area of the park that we passed.

    In the summer a bunch of us would be out at 0615 to meet in front of our tenement, the nearest to the south end of the block, then walk to Pope Park, a two block uphill walk, to play in the unopened park – swings hung with chains, slides – regular and the dreaded rollers, child’s merry-go-round, monkey bars (my favorite), and other contraptions for older kids: Parallel and uneven bars, rings, ladder (swing from one end to the other), et al. The park officially opened a 0800. We had our play time with no competition from hordes of others arriving between eight and nine.

    We then would often lie in the grass on the steep hill to evaluate cloud formations. Or perhaps walk to the park’s concession for a soda or chips, then sit of the side of a hill for a snack after which we would slowly wander home, investigating anything of interest. If the sunny day was “right” we would line the railing of the bridge that we had to cross both ways and stare at the amazing colors refracting in the water. This spur of the Park River, locally called the “Hog River” from the abattoirs and tanneries once lining the river, was deathly highly polluted. Chemicals from factories, including the neighborhood’s Underwood Typewriter Company where my parents worked refracted beautifully in the muddy water is ever-changing vibrant neon greens, oranges yellows, purples, etc. On humid, hot days, however, the fetid odor arising from this river of ordure within which nothing lived made for a shorter visit than usual, no matter the attractive presentations.

    Back then we children really played together. It seems to me that with exceptions, young children today do not really “play”. The association with others of the same relative age group most often is missing, now replaced by Game Boys, cell phones of varying complexity and colors, and TV. Parents and their children co-exist. Too often one hears of children being “bored”, something that almost never happened during my childhood. It is evermore an insular life …

    You and your family are commended for having a normal life in which children are truly “children”.

    Frank

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