But they never grow up, at least not in our eyes

This isn’t intended to be some sappy, whimsical reminiscence of how our kids grew up fast.  It shouldn’t be construed as a longing for the past and a time when we were all younger, fitter or less banged up by the world.  And it certainly isn’t supposed to make us harken back to a time when we were more innocent, less jaded, more adventurous and less cynical.  No, the past is all of those rosy things, especially as our minds tend to color them the farther we get from the actual events.  Memories change but one thing that doesn’t have the corners rubbed off is how we see our kids.  After all, they’re just kids.

I’ve never asked anyone to confirm it but I imagine almost all of us have a picture in our minds of how our kids looked, who they were and how we saw them that never changes.  Those pictures are intriguing if for no other reason than they’re not really accurate today.  Somehow we’ve frozen those images in our mind.  They are our daughter in her soccer uniform or our son in his first suit, you remember, the navy one with the gold buttons.  Those images are loaded with all kinds of attributes and promise perhaps no more accurate today than they were back then.  We see them, in many ways, the way we want to see them.  We remember who we thought they were even if they never were that person.  It’s not about deception on their part.  It’s about our hopes and our dreams about who they could be, who they were going to be and sometimes who we wished we could have been (that one’s a little dangerous).  Memories and image are funny like that.  The thing is our kids maybe had very little hand in what we’ve gotten forever stuck in our minds.

They weren’t that way back then and heaven knows they’ve come a long way since that image was burned into our cranium.  They change so fast, sometimes so fast that we don’t even see it coming, see it happening or see it completed.  Until one day they do or say something and we’re shocked and we wonder, ‘Who is this person and what have they done with my child.’  I assure you it’s not some sci-fi body-snatching calamity that’s befallen your kid.  They’ve just gotten bigger.  And they’ve changed.  It happens.  It happens all the time and we don’t realize it maybe because we’re not looking for it.  We’ve told ourselves a story for so many years about who they are we’ve convinced ourselves we know them.  Maybe we don’t.  Maybe that’s a good thing.

Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s guy, is credited with saying, “As long as you’re green, you’re growing.  As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.”  The idea is it’s best, of course, to always be growing because with people, as with peaches, no one wants to be on that downhill slide to decay.  So, when our kids surprise us, in good ways or not, and fracture or shatter the image we’ve kept of them for all these years we shouldn’t lash out in anger or rebuke them in dismay; we should appreciate the growth they’ve made on their own.  We all want our kids to mature, to improve and to make their own way.  Sure, we still want to be their go-to when they need advice but we want them to figure it out for themselves too a lot of the time.  I’d even go so far as to say we ought to follow their lead.

Who says that at 30 or 43 or 58 we’re done growing?  Why is 37 the age when our dreams go away?  Why is our 48th birthday when we put away that thing we’ve always wanted to do?  Who said at 63 we’re done learning?  Well, nobody actually, but maybe somebody.  Maybe that somebody is you or me that has it stuck in our melon that when we hit that number we’re done.  If I can be a little crude with you, and I think you can take it, I’m here to tell you, that’s a load of b.s.  You know and I know that we still have a lot of gas in the tank.  We have the ability and the gumption to get out there and do things as long as we don’t tell ourselves some story that’s a load of “baloney sauce” as my old football coach, Riley Harris, used to say.

How would it look on you if you put on that changing and growing and inventing set of clothes every few months?  You remember those, don’t you?  The ones you wore when you were 17 or 18?  There’s no gold buttons but I promise you that suit is still hanging somewhere in the closet of your psyche.  If you’re having trouble locating it, allow me to recommend a little exercise.  Go get that old dusty album and drag out a picture of you and one of your kids when you and they were 16, 17, 18, or somewhere in that range.  Look in their eyes.  Now, look in your eyes.  Do you see it?  Do you see the potential, the possibility, the appetite for adventure?  I hope you do. You might have to think hard to remember how that felt but it’s worth it to try because we need a new story.

We all tell ourselves stuff; about us and the ones most dear to us.  The narrative may not change about our kids but it should.  It should come out of the past and leap into the present.  The yarn we spin about ourselves probably needs some revision too.  We need to remember who we were.  It may be difficult but a picture of your former self may be just what you need.  Here’s hoping you can flip that script from your kids and turn that mirror on you.  I wish you the best.  Happy editing.

Whether we’re talking about young or old I’m convinced change is not only good, it’s necessary.  I enjoy writing about all of life’s changes and interesting twists and turns.  If you want to read more of my stuff, head to my blog by clicking this.  I hope you liked what you read and you’ll want to subscribe.  You can do that at the blog or by clicking here.  Subscribing is free and means you’ll receive an email on Saturdays with links to the week’s posts; nothing more and nothing less.  I never sell or share emails so you don’t have to worry about getting a bunch of junk.