This picture, at the top there, is how I always think of my kids. Little ones. Grinning . . . one grumpy, even with the hot chocolate. The grins, loves, goofiness . . . being little kids.
But that’s the memory. This is the reality:
They’re bigger, more mature, and changing. Daily.
I noticed this just this evening when I called my kids as they visit their grandparents. A year ago . . . two . . . even three they were running around crazy. I heard what the latest Spongebob Squarepants episode was about. I was told exactly what save block on the newest Mario game was the hardest to achieve. I heard about a Summer festival and the bulldog that my brother owns and any number of things. That was the same world as that first picture.
But yesterday . . . I saw it. I even heard it. As they sat there on the screen, FaceTime running on my iPhone, they looked at me and recounted their day.
It wasn’t a dissertation on how Patrick was the funniest bane of the Spongebob existence. No . . . it was about what they’d done in the last couple days.
After traveling to New York with my daughter – for business and pleasure – she went to visit her grandparents as well. She took with them the trinkets I bought for them – puzzle globes with different New York scenes on them . . . and they kids had all built them. Together. Already. The 54 piece puzzle would have confounded them for days before. Now it took something like 15 minutes.
But it was more than puzzles. They helped grandpa put the landscaping cloth down and shovel dirt for a new garden. They put chicken wire up and surrounded it to keep out the rabbits. They went to the store and looked at clothes and were polite when they didn’t like something and excited when their grandma bought something and refused to take “no” for an answer.
They were helpful.
This was the growth I hadn’t seen when they’re sitting around the house all day every day. They did the dishes. They were outside all day and riding their bikes. They did chores. They went exploring in the trees of the shelterbelt that surrounded the property. They were . . . happy. As nervous as my kids were to get on the plane and fly East they were that much happier just to be there. It was an indication to me that they were having a full summer . . . a summer like I’d had growing up. Sure, living in a small Midwestern town when you’re 16 is hard. Particularly when everyone knows your business and wants to tell you what your life is going to be. When you’re 11, or 14 it’s great. When you love your grandparents and you get to explore into the grass, see the cornfields going high and watch thunderstorms march through the area with Mother Nature’s amazing fireworks show in lightning it’s spectacular.
I was impressed. Duly so.
Then the camera went dark…and my sons were taking turns sticking their eyeballs on the camera. And my middle daughter started hitting her brother on the arm…and he hit back. They argued. She rolled her eyes . . . and their grandmother asked, sarcastically “you sure you don’t want them back?”
“Darn it!” informed my son, in the voice of a character from his Kung Fu Panda cartoon. It’s here I see the little kid coming back out. We laugh . . . and I realize the core kids, the little ones in the first picture, will always be in there with the older kids from the second.
It’s part of the map that helps them keep marching onward.