My phone rang this evening. I checked the caller ID and it was Alex (my ex-wife). I answer the phone and a very, very, very excited Natalie was on the line to greet me. “HI, DADDY! Guess what? Guess what? I have some REALLY good news. My tooth came out today.” She paused to catch her breath, and I could hear her smiling over the phone. “And I am going to take the tooth and place it under my pillow and the tooth fairy is going to come and give me MONEY!” I swear she had a Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire moment when she said that.
The conversation was adorable, and I was beaming as much as she was. What’s interesting is that Natalie’s tooth coming out meant as much to me as it does to her. Her bottom front teeth have both been loose for several weeks now, and her teeth have been daily conversation points. Also, if you know Natalie you know she is six going on sixteen. Her tooth coming out is such a ‘growing up’ thing for her, and it’s a physical reminder that she is shedding the baby in her for the woman she will eventually become.
Needless to say I have very mixed feelings about this. I look forward to my daughter coming into her own and becoming this wonderful, elegant, successful and compassionate woman. Yet at the same time, I don’t want her to grow up. I want her to remain my baby-girl. I want her to always be small enough for me to throw her on my shoulders with ease. I want her to always look at me with those ‘daddy can do everything eyes’.
So while she is consumed with the fantasy of a fairy coming into her room at night and exchanging cash for calcium (and yes, I said cash not coins. Blame it on inflation), I am consumed with the fantasy of a world in which everyone’s kids grow up but mine remain forever young. I don’t want to live forever, but I do want my kids to be immortal.
Maybe it’s because they are at an age where everything is wondrous and amazing. Natalie and Daniel are at stages in their lives where innocence is the baseline and their minds are expanding at an exponential rate. They live in a world of potential and future accomplishment. They enjoy today knowing full well that tomorrow will most likely be just as glorious.
And why wouldn’t we want to keep our kids in such a world? Why would I want my kids to stay innocent and never have to deal with the realities of life? Things like mortgages and car payments. Layoffs and politics. Fights and heart break. I wish I could keep them in a metaphorical bubble that will protect them from everything we adults continuously try to escape.
But what is the point of potential if you are never given the opportunity to realize it? Why bother dreaming if you can’t go out and pursue them? Why make plans if you can’t execute them? After all, the great joys in life are found in the accomplishments of life. They are found in the satisfaction of reaching those points in life for which we set out when we’re young. Appreciation is something that exists only when people do and live.
I know my kids will grow up and move out and go on to live their own lives someday; yet, I will always see them the way I see them now. As little kids. As MY little kids. But the fun is going to be watching them grow up and become their own individuals. The satisfaction as a parent will be in sharing those life experiences with them. And that’s exactly what I was able to do tonight with my daughter.