There’s something wonderful about a normal, hum drum night at home. Having all the kids healthy and accounted for in bed, with a roof over their heads, and a pantry full of provisions is comforting. After all, the illusion of control usually is.
As my kids enter the tweenage years, and as my friends’ kids are navigating them now, what I’m starting to see is those kinds of nights won’t last that much longer. The days of being able to scoop them up, literally, and tuck them in bed seems to last so long at first, but it’s never long-lasting.
It starts with the phrase, “You’re getting too big for me to pick up” but it really starts when the kids are too big for you to be with them all the time. And then, once they start driving, working and just being out in the world, the facts confirm what you’ve known for a while: you’ve lost all ability to scoop them up.
We had a family reunion with my siblings this summer and there were six families with a total of 17 kids 10 years old or younger staying in one (large) house. There was an incredible amount of picking up that went on. Kids got scooped up from the pool, the stairs, beds, the bathtub, the floor, etc.
You get into somewhat of a rhythm physically moving your kids when they’re young, especially when they’re under 3. The loss of being able to scoop them up moves into a less physically involved stage where you at least know where they are. Then, as independence successfully develops, you may not know where they are at all times, but you have a good grasp of the general limits of what they know.
And then this knowledge vanishes like so much vapor when they hit the middle teenage years. You can’t pick them up, put them to bed, know where they are or what they’re thinking. What happened to that sleeping 18-month-old I scooped up and tucked into bed, whose biggest concern was his blankie? He’s driving on the interstate with the 18-wheelers now.
I think grandparents are enjoying a taste of the old days when the entire family is at the Thanksgiving table or around the Christmas tree. Your kids and your kids’ kids are all right here. You can scoop up the grandbabies, hug your kids, and once again know where everyone is while you enjoy a shared experience. Albeit for only a day or only a meal.
But that’s how this life works. It would be overbearing to insist or even expect a continued toddlerhood for adults, with control (or the illusion of it) in your hands as the parent. Perhaps that’s a good reason to soak it in a bit while you’re still in that phase of life.
As parents we all find out sooner or later how little is actually in our hands. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in a parent’s anxious worrying. More comfort outside of it too.
Scoop them up and tuck them in while you can. And commend your worries to God, especially when you can’t.
Harris and his wife live in Pflugerville with their six sons. Please email comments or suggestions for future columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Daddy Days: From scooping them up to seeing them off