Friday, June 9, 2023

The Fleeting Month of May

Where I live, May is the time for ephemeral things--apple blossoms, lilacs, migrating birds. Every year I'm reminded that if I don't pause, inhale, focus my binoculars, a sudden wind or rain or the mere passage of a few days will sweep away all of the sweet blossoms and feathers before I've taken the time to appreciate them. 

Fittingly, all my babies were born in May, their early days and weeks and months and years passing by like the flitting wing of a warbler, the falling petals of the serviceberry. But unlike spring, whose cycles repeat year after year after year, the progression of childhood is a one-way road. I marvel when I walk into a store that sells baby clothes and toys and books--so much STUFF for so fleeting a time. You'd be better off putting all that money toward their future college or car insurance and instead giving them a bit of crinckly paper or a cardboard box to play with for that microsecond of infancy.

For a while, the middle-childhood years feel a bit more like winter than spring, with days and weeks and months stretching out slow and taffy-like, and you begin to believe that you've been pushing the Sisyphean boulder of "brush your teeth" and "do your homework" and "stop tormenting your brother" up the mountain for eternity. But even that stage eventually passes and one day you wake up into a household of men, two actual 18-year-old MEN in your home, all simian arms and scratchy chins and rumbling baritone voices, and you gawp in disbelief that these six-foot bodies once fit inside your own (at the same time!).

My joke has always been, "He/they can't be one or five or twelve years old, because I'm not one or five or twelve years older." I'm certainly not eighteen and twenty-two years older than when my kids were born. There's nothing quite like witnessing your kids grow up to remind you that you yourself are aging. The other thing that raising kids reminds you of is your relative slacker-ness. In the first year alone, they learn to sit, crawl, walk, and talk. Meanwhile, you consider having taken a shower a major accomplishment. And it keeps going--reading, writing, long division, calculus, computer coding, Spanish, woodworking, pottery.

They just keep passing you by, each moment like a cottony aspen seed, exquisite as it drifts by on the slightest breeze, but impossible to grasp. Some years, like senior year, are like the snowstorm flurry of those seeds on a breezy May afternoon. So many moments passing by, and nothing to do but try your best to appreciate each one as it flits by, before May rolls into June and June into July and so on and on.

These babies turned 22, 18, and 18 last month!

A version of this post went out recently to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child."

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