Yesterday, my wife and I were chatting with Maddie’s piano teacher, Ms. Kim. She just sent her youngest kid off to college and her house feels really empty now. This morning, my wife dropped our kids off at school and I went directly in to work. A little later I got the following email message from my wife…
I walk the kids into the school and stand there with Aaron waiting for the first bell to ring…
I ask him if it’s okay for me to leave after the first bell rings and he says it’s okay…
I give him a kiss, and he gives me a kiss…
The bell rings, and Aaron and I say goodbye to each other…
He begins to walk away with the other kids to their respective lines…
One kid amongst thousands it seems…but I watch our son leave…
After a few moments, he turns his head towards me, and our eyes meet…
I feel the same thing you’re feeling, son…
I wave at him… he waves back at me, and he continues to walk forward…
I feel a certain something in my chest, and I knew I could start blubbering if I didn’t walk away too…
I feel Ms. Kim’s pain…
I know what empty nest syndrome feels like…
And I don’t look forward to that part of my future…
This weekend, the whole family went to San Mateo County Memorial Park to celebrate the birthday of one of Madison’s friends.
Aaron and I took the opportunity to go on an adventure in the park, on our own, away from the girls.
We went straight to the creek, and wound our way along the trails following signs to the Tunnel Tree and the Largest Tree. There were plenty of fascinating trees with burnt-out trunks in which to explore and lots of paths leading off towards unimagined adventures.
The photo here captures Aaron sitting at the end of a concrete wall a few feet above the water just before a spill-over. He had to walk carefully along the edge of the wall to make it to the pylon. This is what he and I deemed “the most dangerous part of our adventure”.
My son called out from across the house, “How do you spell dare?”
Seeing as how this was on Valentine’s Day, I thought that that was an unusual word for a valentine. But I spell it out for him anyway: D, A, R, E.
What I got back was an awkward silence. Then he asked it again, “How do you spell dare?!” So, somehow he knew that that wasn’t the spelling he wanted, or he just didn’t hear me. I asked him to pronounce it clearly. He yelled back,
“Duh! Air! Ruh!”
Yeah, well, that didn’t help at all. So I asked him to use it in a sentence.
Lillian and I had to explain to the kids that their grandmother passed away. Lillian waited for me to return home from work to break the bad news.
When I got home, my daughter greeted me with, “Mom said you have bad news. Did Oma die?” I answered with, “Where’s your brother?”
When we got the kids together, I told Maddie that she was right, Oma died. The kids said things like, “Did her heart just get tired” and “I want to see her big stone thing at the cemetary.”
I explained that Oma’s not going to get a headstone. She wanted to be cremated. Of course, I knew it was coming: Now I’d have to explain what cremation is. They asked, and I just dove into it. “They’re going to burn Oma’s body, and we’ll be left with her ashes.” I watched the faces of the kids and of Lillian to see how this explanation was registering.
They processed it for a bit, and then asked, “You mean like Obi-Wan?”
Lillian lit up at the comparison too. Obi-Wan was a great Jedi, after all. That would be a fitting comparison, right? I had to explain, “No. Not like Obi-Wan. His body just disappeared when Darth Vader struck at him with a light saber.” I went on, “Cremation is more like what they did with Darth Vader.”
I got slightly confused and horrified looks for a second. But then as everybody remembered that third original Star Wars movie, they all nodded sagely.
The rain abated this afternoon, so the kids and I gathered in the driveway for a little fresh air.
Maddie rode her bike up and down the street, while Aaron grabbed the chalk and started drawing on the nearly dry concrete. He draw a rhino-nosed shark, and began to fish through the bucket of chalk pieces.
“Where’s the red? I need red chalk.”
He got up and went back inside the garage to sort through another container of chalk pieces. I’d already figured out that he needed red to draw some blood. Awesome. My son was going to draw the shark in a feeding frenzy or something. I was so proud.
He came out disappointed. “We only have pink.”
With that, he began to draw a line from the shark’s eye to a little stick-figure man, and then drew zapping lines all around the man.
His drawing was far more awesome than I anticipated. He didn’t need red chalk for blood. He needed it for the rhino-nosed shark’s laser beam eyes.
Way to beat your old man’s expectations, Little Guy.
Now that my kids are old enough to read, I’ve been thinking seriously about when I should retire this blog.
The charter of this blog is “anecdotal stories about fatherhood,” and I’ve been able to keep to it for the past six years or so. But as the kids get older, I have to respect their privacy, and I have to do so before they even become aware of this blog. Eventually, they’re going to get online. I just have to accept that.
So, today, the kids start arguing about something silly. I start laughing, and yell, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I want them to be quiet so that I can point out to them exactly how silly they’re being.
They both quiet down, and they can tell I’m not mad.
Maddie offers, “Daddy, this would be good for you to blog.”
I had no idea she knew. But what does she know? I have to re-think everything.
Aaron got a butterfly treehouse this summer. The treehouse comes with a postcard that you have to send away to get five live caterpillars sent back to you in the mail.
Lillian and I weren’t so sure about the caterpillars’ prospects going through the mail, but we gave it a try anyway. The caterpillars eventually arrived in a little cup with some caterpillar food paste on the bottom. The care instructions were so easy to follow! You don’t have to do anything.
The caterpillars would eat their food, grow and grow, and turn into chrysalises right there in the same cup. And sure enough, they did. Once they turned into chrysalises, we removed them from the cup and attached them to the inside of their treehouse.
After a couple of weeks, the chrysalises opened and revealed the new butterflies. The netting of the treehouse was splattered red all over from the butterflies shaking off the dye that colors their wings.
We kept the butterflies in their treehouse for a few more days, feeding them sugarwater on a papertowel. Then it became time to let them go. We broke out the camera and video camera to record the momentous occasion.
We opened the door, and took turns gently reaching in to bring the butterflies out. I don’t know who started it, but one of us began singing,
Mosura ya Mosura…
Pretty much instantly, the rest of us joined in. We all knew the tune. We were letting the butterflies out to the tune of the Mothra Song.
As I was sitting on the ground reading Wired magazine, the kids came by to look over my shoulder.
They started laughing at an ad that had a guy with a long, photoshopped nose. The nose stuck out at least six inches. “Look at his nose!”
But they never made any references to they guy probably being a big liar, or to Pinocchio at all. I let them giggle and point for a few seconds, but still, they never made the connection. At least they never mentioned it.
How could this be? Were my kids that uncultured? What kind of father was I? Pinocchio is a Classic. I had to find out. I asked the five-year-old, “Do you know who Pinocchio is?”
He looked at me for a few seconds. The gears turned. Eventually, he said:
“You mean like in Shrek?”
That’s not exactly what I was going for, but I took what I could get. “Yeah, he’s in there.”