And when I became a parent, I got them all out again.
There is a moment in childhood when you suddenly become aware that one day, if you play your cards right, you may become an adult. Like the fruit on the tree of knowledge, this possibility tantalizes you with desire. It whispers of eating cookies all night long, of no bedtime and of never eating lima beans again. You cross your fingers, shut your eyes tight and wish as hard as you can to grow up. And from that day forward, you begin to banish childlike things in an attempt to become sophisticated.
The struggle to quicken the onset of adulthood continues into your 20s or 30s. Then just as suddenly as it began, you try to pull a massive hand-brake on life because you realize that, yes, you have gotten older. In fact, you will continue to get older. And all those OLD people were telling the truth when they said they had once been your age.
Your skin always looked pretty good until you saw their flawlessness. Your health was great until you got winded from running after them for two minutes.
Bent over, hyperventilating, they are always out in front of you, laughing and jeering, wagging their tongues at you: “Nanny, nanny, boo-boo. Dad is old and so are you!”
Here you are, as the Apostle Paul would say, having put away your childish things, and it is apparent, as a parent, that you’ve forgotten all the tools that you need to have fun.
Like, for example when I had my first kid, I couldn’t remember more than a few words to a single kids’ song. Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder … hmm hmm AREEEEE.
There are so many great things that I had forgotten:
- Silly putty.
- The ever looming threat of being absorbed by quicksand.
- How many licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
- Blowing bubbles, both in gum and from bubble wands. Learning to whistle. Making funny faces until it sticks that way. Turning your eyelids inside out. Wax lips. Play-Doh. Legos.
- Eskimo and butterfly kisses.
- Eating Cheerios mixed with raisins. Just raisins in general. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- Need to make a difficult decision? Simply use Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo.
- Santa visiting your house along with fairies and monsters. Knowing that every snowflake is unique. Catching toads and frogs and knowing the difference. Looking for snakes under every log. Finding roly polys.
- Walking backward. Opposite day. The difference between skipping and galloping. Leap frog and hop scotch.
- The animal noises: When my son first started talking I was trying to make animal noises to make him laugh. What did I remember: pig says oink and cow says moo. Old MacDonald had two verses before it was caput. Slowly I remembered: horse says neigh, duck says quack, owl says hoo-hoo, donkey says hee-haw, goat says maaah, lion says roar. A moron says what?
I’m starting to understand why we bring our kids to every Civil War battle ground in America. Desperately trying to turn back the clock and wanting to absorb the youth of our children, we go looking again for the simple pleasures of childhood. We are trying to inspire in them the passion that we lost. We are trying to somehow stop them from wanting to grow up because we know for us that means we will eventually (a frog says) croak.
As our kids’ appetites are set on being an adult, us parents are frantic to relearn to enjoy life like a kid.
We’ve gotten to have sex, drink scotch, smoke a cigar, stay out as late as we wanted and eat dessert first, and all we are wishing for now is that we could sit in the nook of a tree all afternoon, reading Treasure Island, feeling like summer will be here FOREVER and that we will never grow up.