In The Trenches

My daughter turned twenty this week, which makes me about thirty nine as I figure it. Twenty is one of those strange milestones as a kid that you kind of look forward to and dread all at the same time. Leaving your teens behind is probably a good thing any way you slice it, but at the time, as I recall, there is a bit of remorse that you are finally "grown up" in a way that even the age of 18 didn't bring. There's something about that number two digit.

As part of wishing her a happy birthday on such a landmark date, I wanted to put together some short videos of her as a child. I broke out the DVD's that my father in-law had dumped from videotapes and started my search. I came up with three defining videos that took me back to my days of early fatherhood that I look upon with both great fondness and hesitant nostalgia.

The first video is of the two of them dancing to Trisha Yearwood's "Under the Rainbow." Back then, Donna was selling Pampered Chef and working at Matteos Italian Restaurant. This meant that many nights I was left at home with the kids. After dinner, we would frequently head to the living room and wrestle, goof around or dance. I captured this video of them dancing and  it is priceless. It's one of those things I am so glad I did at the time. It shows the freedom, joy and expressiveness of being a kid all in one song. Sarah was about 5 at this time, and Ben just 2 years old. It is one of those idyllic moments of being a parent when everyone is getting along and having fun.

The second clip was filmed on December 10th of 2000. Again, Donna is not home for this video, and I am taking care of the kids. While videotaping Ben playing nicely, Sarah points out that we didn't do the Advent Calendar. This is a 30 day calendar with a piece of chocolate behind every day. Donna usually had Sarah or Ben open each day and eat the chocolate. Not knowing that it was dated by Advent instead of the days of the month, well, you'll see my confusion in the video. Luckily, Sarah was there to straighten me out on things.

When I watch this, I long for those days when they were so cute and so dependent. Sarah says in this video "We degot to do the calendar!"

I can't even.

Near the end, Ben makes a photo bomb appearance that cracks me up as well.

The clincher is though, when it all comes crashing down as Sarah plays keep away from Ben. This is the part of parenting that wears a person down. The squabbling, fighting and noise. It is an unpleasant reminder that as much as I miss the "cuteness" of it all, I'm still glad it's behind us. I imagine being a grandparent will bring some of that back into our lives.

The last video hammers this home even better. It starts with Sarah asking Ben if she can have a try at using his glove. He runs away and she smiles so cutely. Eventually though, she gets her turn and when Ben tries to get his glove back, she denies him and the air raid sirens go off. Again, an idyllic moment of playing catch with my daughter, brought back down to the reality of the hard part of parenting - namely, being a referee.

As my kids get less and less dependent on us, I look back on these days wishing I had seen the big picture a little better. My wife and I have often said that we thought we'd never make it out of those days and, now they're gone forever. When you're "in the trenches" you can barely see past the next meal or diaper change. But if you string those together - one day at a time - pretty soon you have a twenty year old and a seventeen year old. And while they create their own set of demands and impose new trials on you as a parent, they seem to pale in comparison to the "physical need" years.

The best part of all the work and interaction and listening and nose wiping and feeding and teaching, and story time, and nap times and laughing and crying with them is the payback in having great kids. And you can't put a price on that.

Blogging off...


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