Thursday, July 15, 2010

In Perspective — Flipping the Page to a New Chapter

By Rodney Hays

Some people say birthdays get harder the older you get. But I think some of the hardest birthdays might just be those of your kids.

My son turned 23 this week and just last month my daughter turned 20. I no longer have any teenage kids and that seems a little weird.

My kids have grown up so fast. This week I've been thinking back to 23 years ago when my son, my first born, came into this world. We were in the hospital for nearly a week awaiting his arrival. He finally came late on a Sunday afternoon. I was one of the first ones to hold him and I had the chance to take him out and show him off to friends and family. I was 20 and couldn't grow a beard -- for what it's worth I still can't.

I didn't have many grey hairs back then. But that would change.

My son loved sports almost from day one. He would play whatever sport was in season and some that weren't in season. Laren never hung out inside much, opting instead to be outside doing something.

From the beginning, he was so much fun to be around. He always woke up with a smile and made us laugh.

His mother and I took him to the zoo when he was just 9 months old -- still to young to appreciate tigers, and elephants and poo-flinging gorillas. On the way home, he was tired, hungry and cranky. We were trying to make him happy. In the end the only thing we could do to bring the crying to an end was to point a camera at him and told him to say "cheese," to which he would stop crying for a minute smile and say "cheese."

Laren was always the life of the party. When he was in kindergarten, we got the call from his teacher asking us to speak to Laren about taking a nap during nap time or at least resting and trying to refrain from keeping the class entertained and keeping everyone from napping. We tried. We failed. He continued to be the star of his own show in the classroom. And in the end, his teacher decided that having him in her class wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Macy, my daughter, was born in 1990. She never was much trouble either. You hear all of those horror stories of babies getting their days and nights mixed up and crying for unknown reasons. With Macy, we almost always knew the reason she was crying: she was hungry or dirty.

She did not like to have a dirty or wet diaper or anything remotely disgusting on her hands. But as soon as the offending object was removed or replaced, she was a happy camper again, laughing at her older brother.

Our little girl was, like her brother, smart as a whip too. After just a couple of days of kindergarten, she had memorized everyone's name in her class in alphabetical order. We were good friends with her kindergarten teacher, which I'm sure was a big help to all of us.

When she was in third grade, we got the call from another one of Macy's teachers, Mrs. Coker. Mrs. Coker informed us that Macy was causing a slight commotion in the classroom during reading time. The teacher, who also taught my wife third grade, was reading "The Indian in The Cupboard" to the class. My little girl had already read the book and was in no mood to hear the story again, so she hid under her desk. She would not, we were told, come out because she didn't want to hear the story about an Indian in any cupboard again after reading it to herself over the summer.

My kids were always best friends. Laren played the organized sports and Macy would help him get ready for the season, always ready to provide batting practice to Laren's pitching, or to be his caddie in golf or to play goalie for the neighborhood kids to take slapshots in street hockey.

When both of my kids were in high school, they seemed to grow even closer to each other.

They always road to school together until my son graduated from high school. They would even skip class, we would learn later, to go enjoy a delicious lunch outside of school.

We wanted to get so mad at them, but we couldn't because if that's the worst thing they did, we could handle that.

Now, they both celebrated birthdays this summer and it's a little sad, I guess. But it's not because I'm getting older or they are growing up and don't need us anymore. They will always need us and I am not getting old.

But like a good book, one chapter closes, another begins and the story continues.

I still love to hang out with my kids as adults. And I'm so proud of both of them for what they are accomplishing in their adult lives.

But I think back to some of the memories of yesteryear and I wish they were still at home reading books, playing sports and skipping class.

Happy birthday, Laren and Macy.

Now go out there and make a lot of money, daddy needs to retire.

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