That Was Then, This Is Now

Then: Rene, 5; Nathan, 2; Ricky, 8

We are a family who loves traditions — even the kids say they do. And we’ve had many over the years. We always had neighbors and friends over on Halloween and served appetizers and let the kids get their final costumes on while the adults talked — then we’d all go out trick-or-treating together. On Fourth of July, we used to have a bike parade around our lake, which later turned into a day at the lake, which then sort of evolved into kids playing in the courtyard in their red/white/blue Old Navy shirts and parents making hamburgers and hot dogs after they hung their flags out front. On Christmas, our family decorates our little tree together, and one kid gets to put the star on top in a rotating pattern. On New Year’s, we used to get Chinese food and stay up as late as we could, toasting with sparkling cider (for the kids) and champagne (for us) and sit on the bed and watch Dick Clark together. …

But here’s the thing: The kids are growing up.

And they have their own friends, and their own gatherings to go to, and they’re often not home on these days anymore. And definitely not doing the traditions.

It first struck me last New Year’s, when Ricky went out with some friends and did a “murder mystery” dinner with his best friend’s girlfriend’s parents.

Then it struck me again on Fourth of July, when — instead of all of us riding our bikes up to the lake like we used to — Ricky went out to his girlfriend’s town to celebrate with her, while Rene met her own friends up at the lake and barely touched base with us at the end of the fireworks show. Nate hung out with us, but it was just … different.

I’m expecting to see this on the Fourth of July:

And instead I’m getting an empty house.

It came up again on Halloween, where I’m imagining all the little kids coming to our house, and all the neighbor parents, but instead we had …

an almost-empty house.

Superman used to mention this all the time — he’d get very quiet, and say he missed the kids when they were younger. But I used to wave it off. They’re fun now! I’d say. They’re so much fun to vacation with, being older. They’re so interesting to talk to, as teens. We can go to museums! We can have lively discussions about politics at dinner!

But he would just stay quiet. …

And this year — on these holidays — it really hit me, what Superman’s been saying all these years.

Now I miss them, too.

Or I miss their young selves.

Maybe I need some new traditions.

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7 thoughts on “That Was Then, This Is Now

  1. I know exactly what you mean! When they are so dependent on you, you can’t wait to have a little space and then when they don’t need you, you want to be able to do stuff for and with them. It was always so chaotic going trick or treating when they were little – we had to go by my moms, then my aunts, then my sisters and then home to trick or treat our area….now, nothing. No one dresses up, no one is home and we live now on a country road where no one trick or treats, so….it was just another day for us. It was a quiet day I spent alone reading while my kids were at work and my husband slept (he works the grave yard shift). This was the first year that I didn’t have at least one kid home getting a costume on for a party or something and it made me a little sad. Now, I guess I will have to wait for grandchildren!

  2. Well you’ve successfully managed to cause me to well up again at work! I don’t recall ever seeing seeing Superman on tv, or the big screen, to blubber over his kids. Maybe you should start calling me “Blubberman”!
    I do love the people they are growing into and the maturity but those days of carefree innocence and fun are just so special. I’m glad, in a way, that you get what I’ve been saying all these years though as I was starting to feel a little weird.
    Debi, I agree that we will hopefully get to get back to some of those days with our grand kids.
    And Laurie we WILL just simply have to create some new traditions and memories-you are right…again!

  3. Every parent goes through what you are going through Laurie, I think Chris saw it coming, because maybe as he was growing up, he saw it happen. It sort of goes that way one kid at a time. Until suddenly they aren’t there for those special days.
    I recall that suddenly, I wasn’t celebrating New Years or other holidays, instead I was drinking ice tea and staying up waiting for a phone call to “come and get me”. Which I did for a couple of the boys. I always had a policy, call me and I’ll get you home no questions asked. We’ll deal with that later. Anyway they do grow up into adults, much too soon. But then they as adults, they do come around again. Enjoy your time as you can, and be ready for the next wave.

  4. Thanks, all. Great comments. Yes, I think the new traditions are definitely in order. (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.) And maybe I’ll try to think of things you can ONLY do with older kids. (And I’ll have to be more flexible to work around their schedules!) Hmmm …

  5. This made me way too sad… I am in the college graduation, career, marriage, grandkids waiting game – and I deeply miss the chubby little one who used to need me for everything. I love the young woman she has become, but our time together is very precious now as she is very busy…

  6. Pingback: Our Longest-Running Family Tradition (a.k.a. How to Halt the Co-Sleeping Thing)

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