The Ramblings of a Dad Coming to Terms with his Growing Kids

If you listened to this week's episode of The Movie Breakdown, then you will know that I was a fan of the raunchy coming-of-age comedy, Good Boys. If you listened to The Breakdown of the Best of 2018 episode, you will also know that I was a huge fan of Eighth Grade. I think both movies were a great blend of comedy and sweetness and did an expert job of capturing what it is like to be a tween in modern times.

Or at least, what I assume what it is like to be a tween now, because I am not one and I haven't been one since the early 1990s. We didn't have things like smart phones, the internet, 9/11 fallout and various other major social changes to worry about or to dictate how the day-to-day goes. Even though I am not a tween, I do have two kids that someday will become tweens and so as a dad, those movies are at some level terrifying.

For several days after seeing it, I couldn't stop thinking about Eighth Grade, not only because it was a great movie, but I was panicking over the fact that one day my children will go through the things the characters did in that movie. It was enough to make me wish I could pull a cartoon ostrich and stick my head in the sand for a few years. I have a sinking feeling that wouldn't solve anything.

I still have several years before Everett is a tween and even more with Danika, but it is frightening to think we live in a world where kids seem to grow up so fast and that at the innocent age of 12, they are already taking nude photos or that sex is such a big part of their thoughts. I am sure sexual thoughts dominated my mind at 12 too, but at least, the idea of 'sexting' was reserved for kinky sci-fi stories or some odd perverts deranged mind. Now, it is reality.

Emily, my wife, was a little annoyed when she discovered that I showed Everett the movie, Black Panther. I did it partly because most of his friends had already seen it, but also, I was confident that he could handle it. I say that I was right, but I also see her side. Our kids grow up too fast and maybe holding off a movie like that can at least allow us to be deluded into thinking our kids are still innocent. It is likely the most violent and intense movie that Everett has seen, and even the night we watched it, I debated a bit over if I should show it. I believe there is now an MCU ban at our house until my wife gives further notice.

Even without the aid of showing action movies, my kids are growing up too fast. I've seen myself cling more and more to nostalgia and their earlier years. I still fondly think back at a 3-year-old Everett who discovered the shower door in his bathroom was slightly damaged and so he went to get his Mousekatools (they were just a stuffed tool set, but his favourite show at the time was Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). Somewhere, I have a video of him spending several minutes trying to fix the door with his oversized stuffed screwdriver and hammering the side with a plush hammer. This type of event was something that happened a lot with my imaginative boy, but for some reason, it was that time that is deeply embedded in my mind and I often fondly reflect on it.

Another fond memory was Everett at two years old wanting to be a fairy princess for Halloween. He made a great one, I'd say. He had no shame or worry dressing up like a girl, and it was completely innocent. He also did a great job since I think half the houses thought I was walking around with my daughter (this would be a few months before Danika was born). He ended up loving the costume and would dress up in it often while playing with dinosaurs or pushing around his toy trucks. It was before he started going to school, and he didn't really care what the expectations where for boys or girls. He loved playing with dinosaurs or monsters, but he also liked dresses and wands too.

School was a big deal in our house. Everett had never gone to daycare, so it was a huge adjustment for him. I'll be honest, it was a gigantic adjustment for me too. I was used to having him with me every day and now I was saying good bye to him for several hours every day. For those who may remember, I wrote a few pieces about Everett's time at school for those first few months of JK. I'd often get notes that said Everett was sad at certain points in the day and that he was missing his mom and dad. It broke my heart to think there wasn't much I could do and there were moments in the day that he felt he needed me, but I couldn't be there. But while he was home, he was excited to tell me all about the new games and activities that he learned at school. It was a new adventure that he was thrilled to talk about.

He would often spend our whole walk to school telling me about all the cool things his teacher taught him and would explain to me the new games that he learned in gym. He really loved school. But without fail, we would approach the school building and he would start crying. He would beg me to take him back home. I'd often have to pick him up in my arms and push him through the doorway in order to get him into his class. This went on for almost two months.

It was tough hearing Everett was sad during the day and it got frustrating having to deal with the daily routine of convincing Everett to go through the doorway while tears flew from his eyes. But to be honest, there was a part of me that liked it too. I wasn't ready to let go. While I am not sure what this says about me, but it felt good to know that Everett still needed me, and he wanted to be with me.

Little did I know, that by the next year, he would tell me very little of what he did at school. The older he has become, the less he really wants to tell me about his day to day activities. It was a real gift this summer that he was excited about camp and probably missed me enough that he told me about many of the activities that he did there. I have had to accept the fact that Everett is becoming more and more independent and as the years go on, needs me less. It is probably one of the reasons that I'm still willing to get him dressed on a school day (with the excuse we are in a rush and I don't have time for him to get moving) and still pour his bowl of cereal every morning even though I am pretty sure he knows how to hold a cereal box. I still want to help him where I can, because he is still my little boy.

Danika is more affectionate than Everett. Like Everett, she never did daycare, so I know there will be an adjustment period as she gets used to school. But I also am well-aware she is more independent than he ever has been. She is also incredibly out-going and social, so I assume she will be loving school within the first few weeks. The only consolation that I get is that I'm pretty sure she will tell me about school for longer than Everett did, and I've got several more years where she will give me hugs and kisses every morning before going to her class. Or at least, I really hope I am right about that.

I've been in this mode where I start worrying that I haven't taken enough pictures, shot enough videos or jotted down enough cute sayings. The years go by and those darling toddlers and young kids become distant memories. It has caused me to become obsessed with shooting videos and trying to write more about my kids. The photographs, videos and stories are my way to connect with those special moments and memories. It is my way to make sure that I never lose a piece of the connections that I have with my children. Of course, another way is to really devote valuable time with my kids and really continue to invest in them. I don't want to be the dad in a decade that regrets not really knowing my kids.

I'm glad my kids are growing up. I love the people they are becoming. I am happy that they are becoming more independent and confident. They are getting their own personalities and dreams and goals. I want them to be their own person and I know they will be very successful. But there is a part of me that I will miss how much they once needed me or especially, how much they loved being with me. I hope we will continue to have a great relationship and I am willing to do the work to keep us close.

There are still many more years where I can teach, mentor and well, parent my kids. It also means that I have a few more years before things like Good Boys and Eighth Grade become a reality. Though based off how the society is going, maybe the events of Eighth Grade will start happening in Fifth Grade. Though, I'd rather just keep clinging to the fact those movies are fiction and maybe those events were hyperbolic. Maybe I don't have to worry about those things. Or I can just keep investing in the life of my kids and trust I will give them the values and confidence where they can handle the bumps, obstacles and challenges of the tween and teenage years.

My kids are growing up. This means I need to live in the moment now. I need to spend and enjoy as much time as I can. I also need to trust them and accept they will become more independent. They will have their challenges and their tough moments. They already have had some, and they turned out great.

Over the next few weeks, I will write about some of these great moments that I've had as a dad of two wonderful kids. I will show that they've probably taught and inspired me more than I have done for them.