Hard to avoid the cliches, but parenting has been a roller coaster of highs and lows, twists and turns, peaks and valleys, sunrises and sunsets, ebony and ivory…I both shiver with anticipation and shudder with fear at the thought of their teenage years.
Take, for example, the day my boy threw his first baseball through our garage door window. While the incident had (and still has) the potential for being a memorable milestone in his development as an aspiring, professional baseball scientist, I’d still classify it as a low.
First board broken in Taekwon-do. High.
The time my daughter fell off the swing-set at the lake and we had to rush her to the emergency room in rural PA. Low.
First recital. High.
Punishing my daughter by not letting her go to the school dance because she brought home a red card from her 1st grade teacher for excessive goofing off in class, talking, and drawing of anatomical private parts. Low. (Although, her accurate depiction of anatomical private parts merits an off-the-record high.)
Receiving a spontaneous “I love you” and hug from my boy, plus every time he reaches for my hand on our morning walks to school. High.
Dreading the potential impact on my girl’s innocent and optimistic view of the world the night before a school-wide discussion of 9/11 on it’s tenth anniversary. Low.
Swinging in the backyard at twilight and making up goofy names and stories with my daughter, and every walk we’ve taken, just the two of us. High.
Sometimes the simplest of moments become the highest of highs, sources of anticipated, enduring memories.
Monday night’s tuck-in marked one of those.
Our night-time routine normally goes something like this:
I/Wife: “Are you guys getting ready??”
They: “Still pooping!”
I/Wife: “Guys, are you getting ready???”
They: “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
I/Wife: “If you guys don’t get ready soon, your tuck-in’s going bye-bye!!!”
They: “We’re ready!”
The nights both my wife and I are home, we alternate who tucks in whom, and more often than not, tuck-ins involve reading them books in bed. When they were younger, we’d read them three short ones with lots of pictures; now, it’s typically a lengthy, picture-less chapter from Harry Potter.
But it’s lying side by side in bed, sometimes with his or her head on my shoulder or one of their hands resting on my arm, reading together, that I prefer over all other forms.
After tuck-ins, we leave the oldest reading until she falls asleep, and we turn off the light/turn on Frog and Toad for the youngest, who falls asleep within minutes.
Since my wife was out this past Monday, we opted for the alternate, joint tuck-in in my daughter’s bed, where each one selected his/her three chapters or short books and I would read them. My boy immediately grabbed Harry Potter. My girl, however, gathered several writing notebooks she had collected from school during the last-week-of-school-clean-out. Instead of I reading to them, they both decided to read to me, and seeing his sister flipping through her original writing, my boy set aside HP and ran to his room to retrieve his own original works.
This is where the magic began.
Their eyes sparkling, and with palpable excitement and enthusiasm, each one picked his/her favorite original composition and began reading. There was so much pride and ownership in each word spoken. Unlike sometimes where attention spans fade in and out, we were actively engaged with each other, hanging on every word, enjoying their homemade tales. At the beginning, I declared each could read three, but after the first set of stories, they both were lobbying for four, five, “Let’s keep reading!” they pleaded.
In these moments, I find myself drinking in their essences, focusing, taking a mental picture so as not to forget the senses, thoughts, emotions, what it feels like to have kids these ages, so much already accomplished, and so much more to come.
The highest of highs.