I've heard about a thousand times that your kids grow up "too fast." This comes mostly from seasoned parents, with kids in high school or even out of the house, grandkids to follow who are also growing more quickly than their parents wish. And I'm sure they're right! However, in my tenured two years as a parent, I haven't really felt that way. I chalk it up to my status as a stay-at-home dad. I've been able to spend about every waking moment of the first two years of my daughter's life with her, and so when people have told me, "They grow up so fast," I just thought: Eh, feels about right to me.I think that's actually one of the great benefits to staying home with your kids -- time seems to travel more slowly -- and until they invent time machines, those are moments you just can't get back.
But then today, it happened -- I had my first "they grow up so fast" moment.
I was feeding Ellie and asked her if she remembered me cutting her grapes because they were too big for her to eat safely. She can't answer, but it was a thought I had and so I said it out loud. You see, there was a time when even a whole grape was too much for her little mouth to swallow, but now she can stuff about a half a cup of food in there at once, no problem. And as I reminisced about her younger days, I felt kind of sad, the bite of nostalgia cutting my nostrils and watering my dry eyes. She is growing up, things are changing, and the pre-toddler little girl she once was is now gone.
I've always looked forward to her growing up actually, because she just gets more and more fun! She can jump now, climb and play on bigger things. She took her first try at standing up on a skateboard last week, and I look forward to the day I can teach her to surf (if she wants to learn, of course). It just gets better and better, but today I'm catching the first glimpse of what they mean when they say, "too fast." Soon she'll be going off to school, having sleepovers and maybe even (gulp) liking boys...
But you can't stop time, right? And so all I can do is take this moment of nostalgia as a reminder to enjoy every day. Every tantrum-filled, vegetable-throwing, laughter-inducing, hug-beckoning, dance-party-of-a day. There will always be work to do, and tomorrow has enough worry of its own, but we're only given so much time with the ones we love. And maybe, just maybe, if I take advantage of every moment I can, when I find myself saying, "They grow up too fast," there can be a little less sadness in my eyes than the next guy, because I know I was there to enjoy as much of it as I could.
I drive a Subaru Baja. It's an unusual car/truck combo that only lasted production for four years back in the early 2000's. Four doors, a 4-cylinder motor (mine is turbo charged), roof racks and a truck bed barely large enough to haul a refrigerator, this car is an anomaly to most. I read one person describe it as a "jack of all trades" kind of car, and I think that's a great description.
In all its glory.
That is a term my father has always ascribed to himself (though he's good enough at most things to get by with a little more than "jack"). He can fix anything, coach sports he's hardly played and play the drums with no lessons. He's a writer, professor, public speaker and successful businessman, on top of a thirty-year career in public works. I tell my friends about him and they are all surprised to find he still surfs and snowboards more than some of them do. Maybe that's why he likes my Baja so much.
And so it's no surprise, with a role model like my dad, that I have always aspired to the same status, not seeing "jack of all trades" as a bad thing, but an incredible asset, ignoring the second half of the saying, "master of none." But as I've grown older, I found that our society doesn't really honor the "jack" as much as I always did. As I've looked for jobs, they want someone who is really good at one thing rather than kind-of good at a lot of things. As I've volunteered for friend's film projects, I never seem to fit into anyone one particular role. As the people around me progress in their fields, I find myself somewhat left behind.
It works...sort of?
Writing blogs, films and novels. Shooting movies, music and skate videos. Making music for licensing, films and fun. Maybe I'm too indecisive to choose just one thing to get good at, but really I just love to do a lot of things! However, when you're trying to make a career out of them, being sort of good at a lot of things doesn't match up to the guy who is really good at what is needed. It's like getting a degree in Liberal Arts and then trying to get a job as an english teacher -- the guy with the English degree is going to beat you out every time, even if you took a ton of literature classes.
So what do I do? Flounder about from one passion to another, maybe one day attaining some degree of masterhood when I've logged enough hours at something? Or the road more traveled: focus on a skill and really dig in until I'm good at it, neglecting my innate desire to try new things far too often? I'm not sure. I read that to be a true Jack you need to master at least one thing, which gives you the foundation to build upon for your other interests, and then branch out. That seems okay. I also read that leaders and pastors tend to be Jacks. Sounds good. My wife encouragingly said that most fathers are Jacks. Alright!
One thing I know for sure is, if you ever need to catch some waves, carry four people, haul a refrigerator in the back and do it quickly (turbo!) at the same time...you might need my Baja. And on that fatefully strange day, when four people need a refrigerator on the beach in a hurry to catch a swell, all the other vehicles will shrink back when the call to service is made, leaving this strange sort-of-car/sort-of-truck a proud forefront, doing what it's made to do while the others go off to garages and driveways, wondering what on earth just happened.
Yes, maybe I need to pick one thing...or maybe I'm just waiting for my day.