My little bundles of joy are adorable. I’m talking cuteness on another level. For my five-year-old daughter and her bouncing curls, I can’t stop laughing whenever she tells me about recess or mispronounces the name of her kindergarten teacher because of her missing front teeth. The “s” sounds come out like “th” and, seriously, I can’t take it. She’s the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen. I actually call her “little face” for that reason.
My three-year-old son is just as precious. Lucas may be non-verbal, but he doesn’t need words to be such a tiny little bundle of moosh. I love to toss him in the air and squeeze his belly when he walks into the room. When I sing out his name in a high-pitched voice to elicit a smile for the camera, his face lights up ever time. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. He’s like a doll. A freakin’ doll.
There is only one problem with my three and five-year olds that I should probably mention.
They are nine and twelve.
Yeah. The images I have of them when I close my eyes never matches the reality down the hallway. One mention of my children and I see a snapshot from long ago in my mind’s eye. Their ages far exceed my memories and, just as I start to catch up mentally, they’ve celebrated another birthday and the whole process resets.
My daughter tells me stories from middle school that sound like the plot to a teen drama on the WB Network. Tales of boys ghosting girls and then being called out on Snapchat posts. Kids using colorful language that “we don’t use in this house”. And overall sketchiness from girls who think they cute, but nah-ah. “Daddy, you should see how she acts.”
Olivia’s not five anymore. Five was a long time ago. Five was so long ago that we’ve nearly tripled it and, no matter how much time I am around her, I still find myself thinking she’s tiny. I have to remind myself to not fetch her a glass water when she is standing next to the cups, even though she asked in a cute voice. I shouldn’t cut her meat up unless asked. And I’m definitely not invited to sit on the couch and join in on gossip sessions with her friends. That’s five-year-old stuff. That was a lifetime ago. As she once told me in a gruff stinging voice, “That baby is…GONE!”
My son is the same way. He’s like a little linebacker, yet I still imagine slinging him in the air like a tiny skeleton stuffed into Cabbage Patch doll. I remember feeling his bones beneath his shirt as I gently swung him to and fro, careful not to hurt him. Now, while I still do that, I’m left wondering what that cracking noise was and praying it’s nothing in my forty something body…
…which, by the way, totally feels forty-something. I have a better time wrapping my head around my own age. Lucky me.
This shocked approach to the rapid growth around me stretches beyond my own offspring. Last week, one of Olivia’s friends, Lilly, came by. We’ve known her since preschool. Social distance rules easing up a bit, I was able to give her a hug hello.
Her mom looked over and asked a question that hadn’t even absorbed into my brain.
Do you see how big she’s gotten these last few months? She’s almost as tall as you.
I turned to Lilly and, I swear, she grew three feet within seconds. It was right before my eyes like CGI in a Hollywood blockbuster. I never really assessed her height whenever she was around. It was just a non-issue and nothing I took direct notice of. I naturally assumed she was tiny so my perception of the world around me worked within those parameters. It wasn’t until her mother pointed it out that suddenly, my brain put a spell on her and she was nearly eye to eye with me. It was like quantum physics. Nothing happened until you observed it.
Of course, once you see the first crack, you start to see them all and before long, I started to be conscious of my own daughter’s growth spurt. As she left the house yesterday morning, I went to pat her on the head and realized I was no longer reaching down. I was sort of reaching sideways. She too was nearly my height. Despite the shock, I held it together, though. Would have been scarring for her if I said:
Have fun today. Say hi to your friend for me and…AH! Why are you so tall!? What the freak!?
Nope. I smiled, gently tapped this adult-sized former five-year-old on her still-curly head and wished her a farewell. Then I silently wept.
This isn’t even taking into account how her brother can now reach up easily, wrap his arms around me, and kiss me on the cheek. He doesn’t even need his tip toes. Lucas feels this is the best way to get his iPad, because I am a pushover. As he gets bigger though, he’ll learn that it’s not as helpful as it used to be because I’ll have to stop sobbing first before I can retrieve it.
My kids are big. It’s a fact of life. Time marches on, waits for no one, and soon there will be graduations, grandchildren, and mustaches. I am ready for it.
No I’m not.
Luckily, I don’t have to be. I can pretend for them, though. Father time might not be playing ball, but neither am I. They might not always be babies to the world but, in my head, they can be three and five forever.