I write this post after a day spent at my children’s school for the end of year certificate presentations. Whenever I attend an event like this, or more specifically, any time I am forced to view my children from a slightly distant perspective, I find myself thinking of the Talking Heads song ‘Once in a lifetime’. You know the one…’and you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife…’ where the narrator appears to have suddenly realised that they are in a life that kind of crept up on them bit by bit. I have much the same thoughts at these times… ‘these are not my growing children! How can they be? How did I get here?’
They goes past quickly, our children’s childhoods. We all know this. We know we have to grasp the precious moments and savour each milestone. But it’s hard. In the rush and chaos of everyday life we barely have a chance to catch a breath, let alone savour anything!
But see your child in a group of other children; away from the family nest; out in the world and suddenly you are jolted to a stop and you notice just how much has changed.
From that slightly distant perspective, I see my children with new eyes. I see them, just in that moment, as other people must see them: as little people in their own right; growing and changing and becoming themselves. Becoming other. In this moment I recognise that I tend to see my children as an extension of myself. I assume I know them completely; they are mine as much as I am me. But as they grow, I realise this is no longer true. They are becoming separate; unconsciously tearing themselves away from my grasp; making their own, unique way in the world.
And I don’t know them completely.
Granted I probably know them better than anyone else, and as I look at them standing on the stage, my heart softens with love that is born of recognition. My children. I claim them.
I watch my youngest daughter grinning on the stage, suddenly much taller than I thought she was, looking over to me and swelling with pride, and for a moment I don’t recognise her. For a fleeting instant, I ask myself if this girl on the stage is really my daughter; the child I have nurtured, fed, clothed, scolded and loved from her very first hours in the world. Because in this brief moment, I see she is more than that. She is herself. And I know in my heart that every passing day will make her more so and will pull her that bit further away from me.
And one day they will both be fully grown and I will ask myself…how did I get here?