Every morning, when the kids get downstairs, it’s the same ritual.
Our youngest sits to my left and his older brother sits directly across from him. He’ll talk about how he had “a good sleep” and ask about what we’re doing tomorrow, at which point I’ll remind him that we have lots of fun stuff to do today.
While all of this is happening, Abby, our 14-year-old flat coat retriever has already set up camp under our youngest’s chair. The boy is just the right height to massage her with his bare feet, and if anyone at the table is going to drop something edible it’s going to be him.
At this point, I realize that this is one of those moments, specifically those periods of time. Those periods of time. The ones that contain instances that we may not specifically remember but, when looked upon as a whole, we remember the period.
The time of year also helps us recall these periods. For example, if you look outside in early August you’ll probably notice 100 shades of green in the trees. Some of the Japanese Maples are turning reddish, the pine trees are as green as ever, the Chinese Elms have dropped some leaves, there’s the green mystery tree whose lower branches have rogue leaves that turned red and dropped by now. They’re the canary in the coal mine of summer.
One breakfast this week our youngest was beside me and his foot was grazing against Abby. Abby is slowing down and enjoying the sunset of her life. For more reasons than that, I started to think that this is the last time that this would happen. It’s the way that some naturalists look at a river or the ocean when they put see it. This is the only time that the river will be like this. In a way, that thinking is correct. The ripples, water and debris in the water will never make the current flow in that exact same instance again. Ever. But the river will still be there.
Abby has always loved children. When my wife was pregnant Abby was the pet who immediately noticed and started guarding her. When both children were born she gravitated toward them and protected them, as best as a three-legged aging dog can do. Our children now are in a fun period of time that I want to freeze, but I know that I can’t. Like that amazing view of the ocean or the leaves when they’re just starting to change colors. In both situations, the leaves will fall and the beach will change. One hundred shades of green will change to red, orange and then nothing. The beach will be altered by wind, birds or tourists. However, the trees and beach are awesome all year long.
Now, our children hold the pinwheels outside the car window, think they’re really ‘hiding’ behind a book or ride a scooter with such manic, toddler abandon that-to them, it’s the Daytona 500. Abby sits under the chair, trying to look innocent, but hoping against hope that a piece of toast falls prey to gravity’s might.
Next summer the kids won’t have the same interests. As part of parenting I’m sure that their interests will be fulfilling and suit them perfectly. Part of me wants them just to stop where they are, so that I can spend as much time as possible here. Ultimately, and selfishly, as the ocean that is never the same or is the sleepy dog under the dining room table, I know that’s not possible. The only option is to spend time with them and appreciate them for what they’re doing and who they are, regardless of their age.
Editor’s Note: A version of this previously ran on Daddy Mojo.