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August 16, 2014
The End of Summer’s Anarchy

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Next week, the girls start school. On top of them both moving to a new school, the six year old will be in 1st Grade, our young family’s first encounter with an actual numbered grade. There is a strange dual sense of routine and tragedy to all of this, the end of summer’s anarchy.

Summer has sped past, and to be on the verge of that rigid school schedule is both comforting and jarring. Bed times will become regular and earlier. Traffic will become worse. There will be homework. Will I miss the free-for-all, the movie nights, the sticky-handed, barefoot little girls running riot? Yes, of course. My preferred state of being is child-centric chaos.

But I have reconciled myself to the loss. The girls absorb so much from school in addition to education, and they love their little friends. (The new school makes little difference here. And four and six, all other children are your friends.) In a way, it will be a comfort to return to a system, a sort of order. Life is full of disruptions, but at least the kids are in school.

There is tragedy, too, as is always the case with the passage of time. At which moment did we stop having at least one baby around? Was there a time when the six year old didn’t read every available word? Little unsettling questions, little gaps in the assurance that I’m keeping a handle on everything, that I am savoring the girls’ passage through childhood, that their growing up will not catch me by surprise.

I am not missing their slow transformations, even as I am. What children are cannot be bottled and preserved, much as we might want to keep them frozen at any particular phase.

So, 1st grade it is.

Onward. 

August 10, 2014
Fell asleep watching baseball. Cox family tradition.

Fell asleep watching baseball. Cox family tradition.

August 10, 2014
Road testing garbage cans. A favorite Container Store activity.

Road testing garbage cans. A favorite Container Store activity.

August 3, 2014
The four year old has mastered the art of ninja sword placement.

The four year old has mastered the art of ninja sword placement.

July 7, 2014
Batgirl and Black Canary-the Birds of Prey are ready to fight for justice!

Batgirl and Black Canary-the Birds of Prey are ready to fight for justice!

July 6, 2014
Batgirl in progress.

Batgirl in progress.

June 6, 2014
The kindergarten graduate!

The kindergarten graduate!

June 4, 2014
Birthday girl triumphant!

Birthday girl triumphant!

May 25, 2014
Of Time, the River

Time and human development are liquid materials, flowing past our feet, a broad and shallow river of infinite width rolling over a primordial setting, the Nile or the Platte before they were quantified by human eyes. Children are born, and though they age and change, who they are is constant in the present. Their character is spread across infancy, toddlerhood and full childhood as if they are the same person, a fixed point, unfolding new facets with every stage, but unchanged in their essence. Often, I look at a picture of the girls from a year ago and find myself surprised to see the little one’s hair so much shorter, or the six year old in clothes I know stand no chance of fitting her today. But, at the same time, their faces seem so much the same, and I have trouble remembering how their characters once were different from the people they are now.

When babies become toddlers, that is a palpable and undeniable transition, even a bit traumatic. Gone are bottles, gone are diapers, and, after some trying nights and a lot of emergency-laundry-due-to-accidents, your children no longer require a traveling utility closet to leave the house. A border has been crossed, rudimentary humanity has been achieved, and it is once again feasible to patronize a select few restaurants. It is more difficult to trace specific stages and milestones. Birthdays, a lost tooth, an increase in height you cannot swear to, but know has occured. And thus, we grow.

But it is a river, and though it flows, and though the eye can witness its endless running, it also seems that the surface, while it glitters, does not change. Children share the same illusion, as they move through time. We know that their bodies are maturing and characters developing, but tracking their metamorphoses is attempting to follow a ripple of water’s fate as the Shenandoah and Potomac merge. Understood in abstract, observed to an extent, and impossible to wrap our arms around.

The river flows, and this is understood, for flowing defines a river, change defines a person and the process never ceases. From time to time, with a photograph or a journal entry, I try to pin a particular aspect, to preserve a moment of one of the girls, their look, their laughter, the finest quintessence of who they are, right then, knowing that it’s not quite who they never will ever be again. I succeed as much as anyone could exceed in a task so impossible—a little, not much, but more is kept than if I had not tried.

One lesson to be learned from this, the simplest one, is an acceptance of the nature of the river. Time cannot be stopped, life cannot be frozen, we must move on because we *are* moving on, in spite of our protestations. And while that’s a good lesson, yes, and a solid tower of truth, it’s not the conclusion to which I choose to hew. Accept, please do, it’s part of living in the river, but also remember: the beauties of the waters are lost on those who do not watch them. The girls are growing, changing, slipping away, but I am capturing this process in as many ways as I can. Perhaps some days they or their children will appreciate this, I don’t know. More important is that it will have been done, and their childhoods, those fleeting moments, will have been appreciated by more than themselves.

Will this make any difference in a cosmic sense? Will it chip away at any monolithic wrongs or bring the human race closer to enlightenment? Who can say? But the girls will know, even if they do not read my journals and look at my photographs, that I loved them with such an intensity that I made them the focus of my life. And that is all that matters.

March 22, 2014
Guitar Wonderland on Flickr.

Guitar Wonderland on Flickr.