End of Innocence

What's Wrong With This Picture? Absolutely nothing.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? Absolutely nothing.

Yeah – we were teenagers and most people that observed us do the crazy things we did always said that, “Well, they’re teenagers, what do you expect?”

But it wasn’t until I was fathering teenagers that the “demarcation point” became so obvious. Where the day came that young adults were expected to do things a little better, a little more adult-themed, a little less oblivious; and it wasn’t until recently that I became aware of just how sad that moment is and what an indefinite loss it remains. Kids always seem to be in such a hurry to grow up. That’s a mistake. It shouldn’t be given away so easily.

My parents always said that the most beautiful sounds a parent hears are the voices of their children getting along and laughing together. As a parent I have found that to be true as well. Our youngest, Sam, came along eight years after our previous youngest. Our first set of four were born very close together in less than a six year span. They grew up together and are “tight” to this day. He was always just outside that bubble although the gap has closed considerably in the last two years.

Anyway Sam was always observing and experiencing the changes happening to the older set (the three eldest of which were girls). Many of you that have teenager girls recall that those years are filled with the melodramatic, strife-ridden, over-blown mini-dramas that can turn a disagreement over what one should wear to church into a series of life-altering threats and reactions. But before they got there, when they were younger teenagers, Sam’s youth and innocence brought about changes in their personalities that were awesome. They were just beginning that “teen attitude” when he came along. He reminded them how fun it was to just “play” with reckless abandon and it allowed them to put off growing up just a little longer.

I’d come home from work and hear squeals of laughter from the driveway and once inside I’d find an intricate series of bed sheets hanging over chairs as a made-up tent village had been created, built and inhabited by the whole gang. They’d quickly explain they did it all for Sam but it sure looked like they were having a good time too. And that would be the pattern – cooking up special cakes and cookies, Sam covered with flour, the kitchen a mess but everyone laughing and having a ball and then the explanation that they were doing it just to keep Sam busy. In other words they acted like aunts and uncles to excuse their indulgences but once they were fully engaged with the kid they were nothing more than a sister or brother that was playing with nothing more than their brother. They were shedding the reservation of being cool (that they played out in front of their friends) and letting their hair down and being themselves. I recall feeling bad for Sam sometimes when the older kids would have friends over and suddenly the childish requests were met with a closed bedroom door or a refusal to play with him in the same manner they had just been doing a day before. He was too young to understand that they were going through just as much confusion as he. And I have to add that this shut out didn’t happen often. They included him almost all the time; he was very fortunate. But when it did occur, the look on his face was heart-breaking. More lessons.

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