children

stars

Saying Goodbye to a Five Year Old

When I picked up my son after school a few days ago, he walked slowly to the door, head down and quiet. He normally bounds over to me when I show up at the end of the day. He got his hat and jacket on without saying much, and we walked out to the car.

When we got home I opened the car door, and he looked like he was about to cry. “I don’t want you to go on another trip,” he said.

That morning we had talked about the fact that I was leaving in a few days for a conference. I had only just returned home from another trip. “I just want some special time with you and me,” he said, reaching out and grabbing my hand. We decided that we’d go out for dinner together that night, and get ice cream afterwards.

An hour later we walked out the front door and he stopped in his tracks, looking up at the night sky. It was a clear, cold winter night, and the stars filled the sky. He smiled as he looked up at in awe. Usually we eat dinner around six, get ready for bed by seven and are reading books by eight. So he hasn’t had that many chances to see the night sky, so dark and deep and full.

I just watched him studying the stars, seeing the world through his eyes, feeling his wonder and thinking about how some goodbyes never become routine. I wanted to hold on to that moment. (more…)

Turning off NPR: Media, Crisis and Kids

NPR used to be a morning ritual for me. Wake up, make coffee, turn on NPR. But for the last few months I have vacated that part of the radio dial, tuning in only occasionally, often when I’m alone in my car.

I was at the Boston Children’s Museum with my family on December 14, when I learned about the Sandy Hook shooting. Checking Twitter absent-mindedly while waiting in line, I saw the first tweets and news reports filling my stream. I looked up from my phone to a cacophony of kids laughing and playing around me, many of whom were the same age as the kids who were killed just minutes earlier.

Image via Flickr user Duane Romanell

On the drive home that day my wife and I were careful not to turn on NPR in the car with our two boys in the back seat. Since then, we’ve listened to a lot less public radio in our house. The Sandy Hook shooting coincided with my son turning four. While I’m sure he’s been aware of the media and discussions around him up to this point, recently he’s been a sponge for everything he hears.

For a lot of us who have children around the age of the Sandy Hook victims, that tragedy shook us to the core. But the endless media coverage of the event created new challenges as we tried to shield our kids from news of the tragedy.

This morning when I woke up, I made coffee and turned on the radio – it was tuned to NPR. My son was already eating his breakfast in the kitchen and before I could reach the dial words like “explosion” and “dead” came tumbling out. The devastation of Boston was brought into our little house so quickly. I changed the channel, I don’t think he noticed, but I don’t know. When I went to get the newspaper on my front steps images of the Boston marathon tragedy filled the front page. I folded it up and hid it from view. (more…)

Headache Versus Heartache

For all its joys, parenting can be painful. After the birth of my two sons, who are three and a half years apart, I went through very different kinds of pain. The pain that accompanied my first son was very physical, whereas the experience of my second son has been much more emotionally challenging. Even now, after a few months of being a family of four, I’m still struck by the dynamic between these two types of pain.  (more…)

The Highs and Lows of Parenthood

Flipping through the journal that my wife and I wrote in while she was pregnant, I stumbled on a entry I wrote almost exactly a year ago and was struck by how appropriate it is to this moment. At that point my wife was nearing the end of her first trimester, now my son is five months old. Here is what I wrote:

Today is perhaps the most beautiful day since we found out we are pregnant. The spring has been manic — in both the pace of our lives and in terms of the weather. As Erica and I have see-sawed between successes and challenges at work and at home, the weather has swung, pendulum-like between frigid rainy gray and steamy bright sun.

Today however, the see-saw seems to have slowed, balancing at level, evenly perched, and the pendulum has settled at the midpoint of its wide arch. This past week has been a microcosm of the entire spring, with highs and lows at work, but towards the end of the week, like a raging stream emptying gently into the ocean, this week has slowed and deposited us here, like silt, forming new land.

The sky is almost too blue, with enormous white clouds accenting the horizon. In the sun it is almost too hot but in the shade, where we are sitting now under a maple tree, the air is cool and the breeze glides by.

Today, this moment makes all the highs and lows worthwhile. This is the kind of day that couldn’t exist without the extremes that preceded it, because those extremes are what make the simple joy of this moment possible.

And I guess that is what I want to say about parenthood. A reminder of sorts. With this new life, this new adventure, there will be highs and lows. We should not despair during he difficult times, nor should we always strive towards the high points. For the most part both are fleeting. But in between there is an incredible depth of beauty and peace. (more…)