The number one aim for parents, according to Jeff Bogle, is to let children live in childhood. Stop it from going by too quickly.
Nothing brings about more joy and fear in me as a father than being around children who are not my own; whether it’s the 3rd grader who boastfully packs a switchblade in his backpack or the 10-year-old girl twerking to Rihanna at the playground, signs of premature adulthood are everywhere. It might not seem it on the surface, but there is joy to be had because, selfishly, I receive a modicum of confirmation that I’m doing something right as a parent, but I cannot ignore either the omnipresent fear that I might just be the only one who can honestly say that.
I know I’m not alone, I do, but dammit if it doesn’t seem it sometimes.
It’s cliché to casually remark that childhood is, poof, gone in a blink of an eye, and to, in passing over an overpriced latte, say with forced emotion and empty hearts like the way we ask the grocery store cashier how they are doing but don’t actually want to know the real answer, that our babies will be off to college before we know it. Yet, it seems that for many parents, a blink is not nearly quick enough. To which I must ask: what’s the damn rush?
When my 9-year-old gazes out the car window, working her eyes overtime to peer intently into a field of wind-blown wheatgrass, she can still see fairies fluttering just above the tips of the waving streaks of tans and yellows. She longs to stretch her hand out, to watch the skin of her fingers be battered by the force of the air outside as she reaches for stray pixie dust, believing in her heart that there’s some there to capture and to share with her sister. The magic of the world is not lost on, or taken for granted by, either of my daughters — dolls are tucked in beside each, the glow of nightlights softly caresses their knit, plastic, and furry heads, and books upon books upon books remain the gateway to fantastical adventures and vivid dreams. There is no begging for cell phones, no heated conversations about data plan overages, and none of the cynicism reserved for those who’ve already lived a life. There is only childhood, pure and sweet and simple.
Job #1 for me as a parent is to elongate their childhood, to stretch this beautiful period of time out into the horizon so that my daughters are free to spend as much time being the goofy, innocent, hopeful people they are, for as long as they wish to be. But the line of demarcation between childhood and ‘the rest of their lives’ is being backed up daily; by media who wants kids to become consumers quicker, by parents in a bewildering rush, and by assholes like the guy who tried to expose himself to Mouse’s kindergarten field trip group yesterday. So I play the solider that dutifully provides cover while the rest of his pack executes a critical mission up ahead. I have chosen to hold firm this line, while also acknowledging with them the imminent challenges surrounding us all, so that my girls can enjoy every last ounce of their one and only shot at childhood.
There isn’t a more worthy mission in parenting today, no greater gift we can bestow upon our kids than to provide them with copious amounts of space and time to be children.
—photo by Sacks08/Flickr
—first appeared on Out With The Kids