My oldest son, Fisher, turns 5 years old this week. He has officially declared himself a “really” big boy, not to be confused with the “kind of” big boy status of his younger brother, Gus.
The hierarchy of bigness has been a hotly debated topic in our household recently. When Fisher is feeling feisty, he’ll announce that Gus is still a “baby.” Tears and screaming ensue, punctuated by the occasional physical scuffle. Gus won’t stand for this baby talk.
Gus turns 3 in September, and Fisher has struggled to place this number on the spectrum. Will this make Gus a straight-up big boy? I imagine they’ll spend a great deal of time sorting out these details in the coming months.
In the meantime, I’m left struggling to grasp where Fisher’s five years have gone. Parents of grown children always tell me how fast it all goes, but this jarring phenomenon of long days and short years is increasingly clarifying itself as the boys age.
My mom and dad are traveling from Livingston to attend Fisher’s birthday party this weekend. With Kate’s parents already here in Kalispell, we’ll have the full three generations together, a rare occurrence in this age of COVID. We can thank the scientific miracle of fast-tracked vaccines.
When Fisher heard my parents would be in town, he squealed with delight. Such pure, unvarnished emotion resides strictly in the domain of children. But simply by witnessing it and sharing in it, parents get access to the adult version of true happiness. I’ve depended on it more than ever this past year and a half, a time period that has been difficult by almost any metric.
Children have a way of both enlarging and shrinking your world. Your range of activities and friends tends to lessen, as your available free time in each day contracts. But your perspective broadens to and beyond horizons that you previously didn’t know existed.
Instead of an epic trek in Glacier Park, your weekend might be defined by a trip to the city park. And yet you learn far more on that little jaunt about yourself and the mysteries of life itself. Or you embark on a truncated adaptation of that Glacier Park hike, and the limited mileage ultimately reveals itself as not a tradeoff, but a small miracle.
Standing on my deck recently, I caught myself in a self-defeating cycle of melancholy and negativity. I had wrapped up a day of writing about the resurgence of COVID-19 and wildfires erupting in our region. The immediate future seemed as bleak as the smoky horizons that were preventing my nightly head-clearing run. I uttered something profane and pessimistic under my breath.
Then Fisher suddenly interrupted my downward spiral to declare that Gus had “tooted,” accompanied by uncontrollable giggling. Gus joined in the laughter, followed by me. I’m sure my wife was proud to see two generations, father and sons, bonding over the eternal humor of a fart joke. Yet, in that moment, I saw my salvation.
A cold front chased the smoke away a few days later, but I had already found clarity. It’s never as bad as it seems, and by the grace of children’s love, it’s often a lot better. Sometimes you just need a reminder.
Fisher has been that reminder for five years, and Gus for nearly three. When they open their birthday presents, eyes as bright as a new day, the gift will be mine.
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