featured image
"Something to hold on to" by Jake Frost (CatholicMom.com) Lora Martucci [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]The snows are receding and the Mississippi has crested, which means that spring has sprung in Minnesota! We got the bikes out again for the first time in a long time and were met by a surprise: the kindergartner now towers over his balance-bike like the Jolly Green Giant! Even with the seat raised as high as it will go, it’s still not nearly enough. The time has come to move up to a bigger rig: pedal bike, here we come! I was unprepared for this development. He was zipping around on the balance-bike quite comfortably before it went into the garage when the first snowflakes started flying. But apparently over the winter the boy sprouted like our tulips poking up through the March snows. Which may not be as dramatic as it sounds, given that winter in Minnesota lasts about 11 ½ months. Nonetheless, as the melodious twitter of the chirping birds testifies, the seasons are changing. It even shows up in our walks to school. At the start of the school year, all four kids vied to hold my hand. Which led to competitive complications due to the fact that I have but two hands and that’s not enough to go around for four kids. So every morning as soon as I stepped out the front door a race ensued to see who could first grasp and thus claim one of those hands for the walk to school. I tried various strategies to deal with this scarcity of appendage resources. First, I offered thumbs: one child could grasp a palm and my fingers would fold over that hand, while I would also stick my thumb up for another child’s hand to grasp. It made walking a little awkward, but it was do-able. Though not entirely satisfactory. Those who got only a thumb felt cheated. And those who had the palm still wanted more (it seems their favorite Bible passage is the one about those who already have being given even more). So I offered coat tails: two children would each get a hand while the other two could hold part of my coat. Which again proved less than satisfactory. I eventually instituted a rotating assignment system in an effort to alleviate strife and discord. Each child was allotted a particular day when one of my hands was theirs to hold, alternating days and trips to and from school to spread the turns around. But regardless of the distribution of hand-holding, everyone would get a kiss on the forehead when we arrived at school. And as I deposited each in their own line I would tell them: “I need you to do me one favor today.” To which they would typically answer: “What’s that, Dad?” And I’d say: “You have a great day!” And they’d say “OK, Dad!” and then they were off and on their way for another day. But like the incredibly shrinking balance-bike, things have changed. Gone are the days of competitive claim-staking to get hold of one of Daddy’s hands. The whole complicated, convoluted apparatus that evolved to deal with appendage scarcity has been rendered obsolete by waning demand. A new paradigm has taken its place: now the kids prefer to walk to school on their own. And those who still want to hold a hand only want to do so until we come within sight of the school entrance where kids line-up to wait for the bell to ring and the doors to open. Once we are within view of their assembled peers, I find the hands slipping away. And then I find the children slipping away, eager to walk the final steps to school in solitary, singular independence. No more kisses on the forehead. Not even for the preschooler! When I went to give him a kiss at his drop-off he flung his arms in the air and waved me off, declaring in disgust, “I don’t need that!” Like the twitter of the birds, it too is a sign of changing seasons. But I still told him I needed one favor from him and he answered: “I know, have a good day!” That’s right. And his older siblings, as they dart off, still get their customary request from me and they still answer (even if it’s accompanied with a roll of the eyes), “Have a good day!” Which makes me smile (melodramatic eye-roll or not). I like to think that, though their hands may be empty, their hearts are full and they’ll still remember — even years from now when they’re all on their own — that someone loves them and wants them to have a good day today. That will give them something to hold on to as the seasons unfold.
Copyright 2019 Jake Frost