Magic

Sometimes I wonder whether having children brings greater helpings of joy or sadness.

On the one hand, my two kids are responsible for some of the greatest highs I’ll ever know. Seeing my daughter for the first time, looking up toward me with enormous blue eyes. Seeing my son for the first time, his high-pitched cry filling the delivery room. My daughter and her princess dresses. My son and his fireman duds. My daughter in her first play. My son taking his first T-ball at-bat. I love being a father more than anything I’ve loved before, and I would—without a moment of hesitation—surrender my life for theirs.

And yet …

Being a parent can be so sad. And hurtful. Pre-kids, I paid very little attention to the passing of time. I went about my life happily, naively, bagel by bagel, movie by movie, kiss by kiss. It’s not that I didn’t see myself getting older—certainly, I did. But, save for the annual birthday, there wasn’t a true marker of the days. I lived one day. Then another. Then another.

With children, however, you can’t help but become painfully aware. For example, earlier this week we took a two-day trip to Disney World—our first visit to the park in five years. The last time we were there, my son was 3-months old and, obviously, unaware of anything. My daughter was 3 1/2, and in her element. She wore her princess dresses. She gleefully danced with the characters during the buffet breakfast. She was on a cloud, as happy and innocent as one could be.

Well, this time—at age 8 1/2—she just wasn’t the same. The dresses are long gone, donated to a neighbor. The dancing—over. We went to that same breakfast, and she watched from an icy distance. Disney World remained wonderful and fantastic and joyful. But, well, just a wee-bit less magical.

Which hurt me to the core.

2 thoughts on “Magic”

  1. we take our 5 kids almost annually to Disney. The magic that may be lost from 3 yrs old to 8 yrs old easily is replaced by magic of amazement. I think a lot of people go to Disney with concepts skewed by having gone to the local Six Flags or some lesser amusement parks. Disney, if you let it, can transform your world, even as an adult.

  2. Every so often one of your posts, usually on family and fatherhood, hits so close to home that I feel compelled to comment…but don’t. This one, though, really moved me because of the significance DisneyWorld has to our family, and how it is another reminder of the passing of time. It all started in the early ’90s, when my parents would arrange for trips to DisneyWorld for my wife and I, and my sister and her family. The trips were always for at least a week, and they did them every three years or so. Being able to spend that much time there, we were able to see more of the attractions. And every subsequent visit, something new and different would make the trip special, while we would still enjoy the familiar attractions. We’ve tried to keep up that tradition with our daughter, whom we adopted in 2004 – we go as often as we can afford to, stay as long as we can, and try to show her something new every time. The princesses and fairies don’t hold the same thrill as they once did, but now the animals on the safari ride at Animal Kingdom excite and enchant her.
    But you are so right about how children highlight the passage of time. Like you, I never really paid it much mind, but it it impossible to ignore with a child. In fact, it’s become even more acute for me: since we adopted our daughter later in life (my wife and I were both in our early 40’s), I know that I will probably have fewer years with my daughter than other, younger parents will have with their children, and sometimes I feel like that puts pressure on me to make every day memorable – which is impossible, given the grind of daily life. Still, being a father is the most incredible thing I’ve ever done, and it has been an amazing adventure being able to share the world with her and see it through her young eyes, but it has given me an awareness of time and mortality I didn’t possess before. Anyway, after all this, let me say thank you for sharing your perspectives and feelings, and thank you for letting a silly old man ramble on in your comments section – it has been cathartic.

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