As I rifled through my son’s drawers trying to pull out a short sleeve shirt for him to wear, I lingered over one and sighed. It’s just a shirt, and it’s now too small for both of our boys to wear. It’s been hiding in the bottom corner of the drawer for nearly a year now, unworn, but not unloved.
It’s a simple shirt featuring The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. It was the first song our oldest learned, and both of our boys were famous for marching around the playroom and blowing on an invisible horn with the band in the song while it played. This shirt has experienced many magical mysteries, but is now too small and I have to decide: does it “go to the box” or “go to the sale”?
“I want everything to stop, I want to remember.”
It was my graduating quote in my yearbook. From Ken Dryden‘s The Game, it was about him soaking up his final moments in an NHL dressing room before he retierd. Now I find myself doing the same with my children’s childhood.
I want everything to stop. I want to freeze so many moments. I want him to put on this tshirt, that onesie, those shorts, this hat one more time. Just one more time.
Spring cleaning is hard as a parent. I’m keenly aware of how fast they are growing. The pants are too short, the shirts are too tight, the hats are too small. So I’m clinging to my youngest, Charlie. He’s 5 and still fits in my lap. When we walk home from school or across a parking lot, he grasps for the security of my hand. When we put him to bed, he still asks for cuddles.
When I had two children demanding extra attention at bedtime, it was annoying. Now? Now my wife and I fight for those few minutes curled up in bed next to our son as he drifts to sleep.
Zacharie, at nearly 8, is becoming his own person. He’s too big to carry, doesn’t reach for my hand, and can put himself to sleep, thank you very much.
This year the Easter Bunny secret burst for Z and soon many more imaginary balloons will pop as the childish belief in impossibility gets replaced with growing cynicism.
Charlie is my last grasp of a childhood I foolishly thought would last forever. I always knew the boys would grow up, I just didn’t know it would be now.
Every now and again, I’ll flip back through my digital archives and look at the videos I took when the boys were toddlers. The high frequency of their voice. The chubbiness of their cheeks. The smile that never left.
Their voices now are more articulate. Their faces have caught up to the size of their eyes. The smiles are still there, but they’re not as tuned to me.
Zacharie’s super cute kid days are gone. They’re done. He’s fully blazing his trail to tweendom. But Charlie’s still got some really good years left in him. And I recognize it now.
“They grow up so fast,” is something everyone tells you but you never really believe until you’re in the final innings of that cosy childhood. Then, it means so much more. Like an athlete closing in on retirement, you cherish every moment when you know it will soon be over.
So I cherish this cosy childhood time, this perfect age of 5. I now reach for Charlie’s hand. I pick him up and carry him up to bed, because I still can. I cuddle. I cling. I try to make time stop. I want to remember.