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Published July 08 2013

Parenting Perspectives: Childhood as fleeting as fireworks

My wife was getting ready to teach piano lessons and asked our 9-year-old twin daughters to help their 4-year-old brother take his bath.

Sounds like a setup for a clip on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” right?

Well, they did it.

They managed to help the boy get clean without any major incidents. Granted, after said successful cleaning, Will walked buck naked into the living room, which was occupied by two of my wife’s female students. But the cleaning itself went fine.

The event was the crossroad of changes. Will is going through one of those strange, irrational childhood phases. In this case, while he doesn’t want to be in a room alone, he apparently has fewer qualms about being in a room with strangers while naked. But this will pass like the others.

For the girls, it was an emblem of change as well. These two little hyper-dependent, mommy-I-can’t-do-it girls aren’t so dependent anymore. They can do things. It’s a relief because, I’ve got to tell you, there were days when I wasn’t sure if they’d ever be able to pour a glass of milk or put on a jacket without tears of frustration.

There’s a pull-and-give, a tension-and-release to the whole thing because with each new step, each new milestone, something’s gone that’s never coming back.

There’s nothing like a kiss on the cheek from one of your children, but there’s also nothing like cradling a baby in your arms. And the latter has to give way to make room for the former. You can’t have both; shucks, you can’t either for very long.

My daughters used to call out “Daaaddddyyyy!” when I walked in the door after work. Now, they’re still happy I’m home, but I don’t get the rock star greeting I used to. Something’s changed.

You get caught in the middle of all this parenting and growing up. One minute it’s, “Act like a big boy” and “You have to try.” The next thing you know, it’s “I can’t believe how quickly you’re growing.” and “Did you do this by yourself?”

Seems like you’re always pushing for maturity and growth, but you can’t help looking back with a sense of longing at what’s left behind. And you know you have to drink in the fleeting moments, but it’s hard to do in the day-to-day deluge of bill paying and meal preparation and diaper changing and dish washing.

I think some people try too hard to hang onto the moments, but it’s like trying to grasp a stream of water. It awkwardly breaks up the flow for the moment, and then it just keeps going. Still, when you’re in the middle of a someday-to-be nostalgic memory, it’s a good idea to drink it in.

The other night, my wife and I headed out for the Fourth of July fireworks show in Moorhead. It was a nice Minnesota night, the smell of bug spray and sulfur wafted through the evening air. The kids “oohed” and “aahed,” played with glow sticks and stayed up way past their bedtime. It was a great show, but when it finished Will said it was too short.

Those fireworks do go away quickly, don’t they, buddy? They scream into the air, burst into color, and almost as soon as your eyes light up, they disappear. But they sure are something special for that moment.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734