In a blink . . . Diapers to diplomas

June 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

My wife, Lisa, and I went out to eat recently and talked with a nice couple. Turns out we had met before – their son knows my wife from her years in education, and I coached the little tyke in T-ball and basketball. He’s 24 now.

I love the pictures proud parents post on social media, showing their progeny at their first day of school in kindergarten next to one of their last as they graduate from high school. The transformation is amazing, but the speed of time is difficult to understand.

With graduations from high school and college taking place this month across the country, along with promotions from junior high to high school, my mind wanders back because I know so many of these kids, and it is hard to comprehend how my little Blueberries (softball girls) are now the proud parents of more little Blueberries. The kids who found dandelions more fascinating than fly balls are now chasing their littles around the park, watching them try out for Center Stage’s production through the Missoula Children’s Theater next week, and getting ready for their role as a tree in the ballet they’ve been working on since September, with a very somber face.

One moment our children are kindergartners, “matriculating” to first grade. About two hours later they are receiving a math award at the 8th grade promotion to high school. When we turn around from putting in a load of dishes, they are sitting up in a cute convertible driving around the track with a Homecoming Princess. After a long weekend, our “kid” is dunking basketballs, cracking up audiences in the high school “One Acts”, and working as a courtesy clerk at Roth’s as Darin keeps a sharp eye to ensure they are following “Orville Etiquette.”

With a blink of an eye, you are helping them fill out FAFSA because they are not quite sure what “Adjusted Gross Income” is, and they are off to nursing school, getting certified in welding as Boeing looks on, ready to pounce on those students for those in-demand jobs, and they are pilots, working toward commercial certification for the day they can say, “On the left side of the jet you can see the Grand Canyon” over an audio system no one can understand. I know two of them. One was drinking a beer at Eric Druliner’s brewery (yes, the pilot was off-duty, silly), talking to me as if I wasn’t going to report his underage drinking to his parents. But then I recalled he is about 24 and married, and the proud owner of a new home.

For those new parents, you can’t slow the clock down. Enjoy your children now, revel in their every move and milestone, and raise them to be kind. Raise them to know when to work, and when to play. Get silly with them, because as my Grandfather once said, “Life is too short to be a stuffed shirt.” Expose them to music because it really does soothe the soul. Teach them to swim, take them to a play when they are ready, read them a book. Walk with them to the park, name a few flowers, and see what they see. As they learn, it is absolutely fascinating to watch the metamorphosis from she who chases a frog by Silver Creek “just cuz” to the advanced biology student explaining the frog’s entire endocrine system.

Be there for them. Not as a guest lecturer staying in their home, hovering like a helicopter, or bribing colleges to accept them, but as a parent or caretaker who listens to them, understands them, and loves them regardless of the things that children do that annoy us. Before you know it, the little red wagon in the garage will be rusted and dusted with cob-webs, and you will cherish the moment you hear the door open and they pop in for an unscheduled visit with six of their “best friends” on Spring break.

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