The Ruark Kids

Fleeting moments, a hidden cost of raising a child

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After bath tonight as I was helping Thalia dry off (yes I appreciate she is probably too old for that, but that’s kind of the point of this post), Siena, hunched on the floor under her towel, self-referentially grumbled, “Soon Thalia you’ll be too old to have anyone help you dry off.”

I looked at Thalia, standing there oh so cute wrapped in her big fluffy green towel, and said, “You know Thalia, I remember a time back when Siena was two, and every night when I said goodnight to her, she would ask me to snuggle with her, and now she’s been too old for snuggling for a long time, and I miss it.”

Across from the room, Siena said, “I haven’t asked because I’ve thought you were going to say you had to go and do all your work and say no. But if you want to tonight, you can snuggle.”

After having just seen many of the Super Bowl ads, I thought, am I in a Harry Chapin song now? And, was she not asking because she was afraid of rejection? (Seems unlikely to both questions.)

There is, over the course of their childhood, a slow but steady decoupling, an inexorable separation of our children from ourselves as we set them on the path to independence. We struggle with the opposing forces of on one hand wanting them to be individuals, to grow up and become something amazing, and on the other hand wanting them to be ever the same, always a snuggling two-year old, a five-year old with the beautiful baby-teeth smile, an eight-year old that loves her parents without bound. Our duty is to cultivate their self-reliance, self-esteem, and self-control, to ensure they can step out into the world and be independent agents, and yet as the years slip by, the cost of that duty, of having and then necessarily losing special shared moments, at times feels unbearably high.

Fortunately, these passing moments get replaced by new ones. Our increasingly independent kids solve especially thorny problems, read big words, sing in a show, play piano at a recital, draw and write amazing things. The adaptation we as parents have to make is to accept that we are less often participants in and more often merely observers of these new moments, and yet to cherish them just the same.

When I did finally say good night, Siena asked me to snuggle, so I hugged her and stayed with her a few minutes; we talked briefly about how things were, and I then I said thank you and kissed her good night.

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