This column first ran in the June 11 edition of Bluffton Today.
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To stop the clock or not: A Father’s Day dilemma
My wishes for Father’s Day have been simple for many years.
I simply want my sons to stop growing. I don’t believe I’m asking too much. I only have two of these young beings and I merely want them to stay young until I die.
So this past week was very disturbing and viciously interrupted my grand plan.
Both my sons took part in a “moving up” graduation ceremony at their schools. My 11-year-old T.J. graduated from fifth grade at Red Cedar Elementary School, while my 5-year-old Jake graduated from preschool at Amazing Creations.
To be fair, there was much reason to celebrate and my wife and I couldn’t have been prouder of our boys. But I know I wasn’t alone as I looked around the rooms full of flashing cameras and teary eyes.
Beyond the tears, the emotion was clear.
“How the hell did this happen? Where did that time go?”
First was Amazing Creations, a place our kids have called home since we moved to the Lowcountry nearly a decade ago.
Center owner Cathy Ferguson struggled to get through her opening remarks before the tears interrupted. It was one of many moments during the ceremony where it was apparent just how much the caretakers truly cared for our kids.
Then the graduation march began. That’s when the memories truly started flowing.
He couldn’t march when we first started going in the building.
At first when he walked, he didn’t let my hand go as we got closer to preschool, and once inside, he didn’t want me to go. And it wasn’t long until he didn’t want to hold my hand going in the door. Come on, Dad, don’t embarrass me in front of my friends.
He still wanted his hugs goodbye, we just had to find a moment and place where no one could see it.
The arts and crafts pictures evolved from blobs to colored-inside-the-lines masterpieces. The lines on the wall kept creeping upward — the growth during his last year in Ms. Danele’s Hummingbirds class alone was insane.
The toddler innocence was gone. He has a neck and a personality and a confidence all his own.
There’s still a little boy there — he still loves his tubbies, plays in sandboxes and howls like a coyote for no reason.
But I’m losing the battle with time.
He’s pushing boundaries, roaming as much of the neighborhood as he can get away with.
He’s testing our patience and ends up in timeout multiple times a day.
And he’s fighting back against his oldest brother, with enough brawn now to hold his own wresting with big bro, even giving up 60 pounds and six and a half years.
Four days later, T.J. took his place in the graduation line at Red Cedar.
No caps and gowns this time, just a steady flow of awards and congratulations to go with a palpable vibe of trepidation in the room.
These fifth-graders know they’re going from the big kahuna on campus to a gigantic new building where they’re the toddlers again.
They’ve seen “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” they’re weary of the adventures ahead.
My wife and I have watched our first-born excel thanks to a tireless staff of teachers pushing him every step of the way.
He has gone from crayons and Play-Doh to gifted and talented in a blink. While it’s still shocking to see hair growing on his upper lip, we’ve watched our son be much more mature than any youngster should ever have to be.
He has fought respiratory issues since birth, leading to horrific allergies, extreme asthma and constant bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia.
Fifth grade was by far the worst of it. It was the worst pain we’ve ever faced as parents, to see him so sick and not be able to solve it beyond hearing “he’ll grow out of it.”
Despite missing more than a month of school, including one last bout of bronchitis right before graduation, he still finished with high honors.
Yes, I’m bragging. I watched my son get his goodbye hugs from his teachers and I’ve never felt such pride.
Knowing how hard he fought, seeing his growth in never giving up, it was hard not to well up in that moment. I thought of my mom and how she instilled that same resolve in me and I knew she was smiling and crying right along with us from Heaven.
As we sat playing chess against each other last weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the first games of “Chutes and Ladders” and “Candy Land.”
The emotions are in conflict with each other almost daily. His life is like a leveling game app he loves so much. Each day, he unlocks a new level of grown-up activities he can tackle. It’s exciting to witness him evolving into my sidekick.
And as my boys evolve, my wishes are evolving. I realize now that wish was less about wanting to halt the clock and more about my fear of a gray mane and ear hair.
Seeing Jake taking on soccer, T.J. taking on middle school, I don’t want to stop time.
It’s more selfish on my part. I thought I’d have six kids and constantly be in the middle of this moving-up cycle. Fate had other plans for us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I don’t want to stop time anymore. Watching them grow and evolve has been a daily gift.
I’ll probably have a different take when T.J. beats me in chess and Jake takes me down in basketball. For now though, I’ll stick with “gift.”
Happy Father’s Day.
Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org