My son, Wes, turned 16 years old a couple of days ago and as my wife and I watched him interact with a few of his friends for his birthday this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be blown away at how fast he has grown and how quickly the time has past. At almost 6 foot 3 inches, he is now an inch taller than I am and a few pounds heavier.
I thought it wonderful that he had a birthday party in which he invited 4 or 5 of his good friends and they spent the next several hours playing the interactive music game ROCK BAND as well as a few other video games.
At a time when a lot of 16-year-olds are looking to experience their first sexual encounter or get high, both my son and my 14-year-old daughter still enjoy playing on the computer and interacting with friends over good food and their shared interests. For this, I am truly grateful. However, a thought is never far from my consciousness and I’m sure is a common thought for almost all parents.
Where did the time go?
I know that phrase is such a cliché but I am still amazed at how fast life moves by – especially as we move on in our own lives. My wife and I have always been aware that our time with the kids is limited and that we need to grab each moment we can as they will grow up so fast. You know what though? I miss pushing my kids around in the shopping cart. I miss them riding their electronic little train which we all affectionately called “Choo” until they fell asleep. I miss picking up my kids and carrying them to bed. I miss the daily episodes of Thomas the Train, Barney, and the countless videos we got that taught them to count, read, and sing.
In some ways 16 years is not a long time. In other ways it feels like an eternity. I still sit by the side of their bed at night although they don’t often ask for me to do so and hold them tight when they need me to.
We have pictures along the wall of the stairs and I often stop and catch myself staring into their beautiful faces that show them growing through the various ages. At times, my eyes will grow fuzzy as the tears come as I remember how incredibly beautiful and innocent they were… and the joy and gratitude I feel come at me through the images on the wall.
I am not one to pine away my sorrows on what was or what might have been. In fact, I consider myself to be one of the eternal optimists and feel that all relationships, whether they are kids, parents, family members, friends, or colleagues are there for us to learn from and cherish. For the vast majority of my life I have done just that.
As my kids make their way through high school, I am mindful to touch them everyday – grab a shoulder, rub their back for a moment, or just give them a good old-fashioned hug. I know I am only a temporary guardian for them until they decide to leave the nest and venture out into the world. When that time comes I know I will look back on the life I spent with them to that point and be honored to have witnessed two beautiful children who’ve made their way into adulthood.
They have not become obsessed with the other sex yet and, I for one am completely okay with that and hope it continues for as long as it can! I know they will eventually begin dating and developing relationships with the opposite sex and when it comes, I will be as supportive as I can and trust in their judgment.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids down to Disneyland and spent a couple of days at the park. Although it was a wonderful time – Disneyland always is – I found it different as the kids had been there 5 or 6 times in their lives and they are getting to the age where it doesn’t hold the magic it once had. Maybe when they bring their children and witness the looks on their faces, the magic will return.
I remember when my daughter was 4 or 5 and the price at Disneyland jumped drastically right about that age. My daughter Meg was born several months early and so she was very small for her age. We knew we could get her in at the younger age price and save ourselves a bunch of money. What we didn’t count on was our little angel piping up and yelling at us when we answered the question asked by the entrance person about how old she was. I believe the price increase was at 5 years of age and when we said she was 4, she started screaming, “No Daddy, I’m 5! I’m 5 Daddy! Ugh…
Kids… lol. Fortunately, Meg was so small that the person at the gate just thought she was a precocious little one and let us in at the greatly discounted price. We laughed about that for the next few minutes and whenever this story comes up it brings a chuckle and the warm memory comes back and floods my mind and heart.
I work with what is considered “at-risk” young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and I know that a lot of them have not made it to Disneyland for whatever reasons. Some of them have been in trouble with the law, gotten involved with gangs or drugs, and have generally struggled in life. I admire these young men and women as they are striving to improve their life and make the best of their own personal situations.
It just reminds me that all of us don’t have the greatest of upbringings and didn’t necessarily have an easy life. It also reminds me that what are important are the thoughts, words, and actions that I can choose right now.
Right now I choose to finish this article and go in and sit on my daughter’s bed as it is a holiday and I’m letting her sleep in. I won’t wake her, no. Instead, I think I’ll just sit on her bed and notice how beautiful she is and how fortunate I am to have both her and her brother in my life.
I want to enjoy THIS moment and the fact that she is now 14 and her brother a new 16 and despite whatever little problems we have with them being TEENAGERS, that I am blessed and honored to have them in my life and I will do what I can to help them prepare for a life that is sure to be filled with the riches that hopefully await.
Although I am not anxious to have them grow up, I know I will relish the time when they marry and have kids of their own and discover the miracle of parenting. I’ll laugh and cry maybe at the same time as I know parenting can bring the deepest pain and the most profound joy.
It’s time for me to experience some joy with them…
As always, I hope life is unfolding for you as you have hoped and dreamed. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!
Blessings to you and yours!