One of the neat things about writing this column is that after you’ve been doing it for an extended period of time you begin to see your life from above. What do I mean by that? Each week you’re thinking about what’s going to be the subject of the next week’s column, as a result you start to see the significance in certain moments. You start to recognize when those moments are memorable and which are going to be the ones you want to hold onto. There’s a symbiotic relationship—you know if it’s significant because you’re going to want to write about it but and you want to write about it because it’s significant. Almost any milestone in my son’s life becomes one of these moments, usually to his derision.
Jack prefers not to be photographed, not to be memorialized, not to have any weight placed on anything that happens in his life. It makes sense if you think about it. Jack’s young enough to think that nothing is special, every moment is going to happen again and if it doesn’t , well, there will be another moment in just about :60 seconds, that will be just as nifty as the last. While I don’t think a seven-year old can necessarily grasp the totality of the next thought, I’m always amazed by Jack’s sophistication and his ability to understand complex thoughts that would have crippled my young mind. The deep thought I’m referring to, when you place any sort of significance on a moment what you’ve effectively done is killed it. By forcing it to be a memory that will live forever in your mind you’ve destroyed what was alive about, by no longer allowing it to remain fleeting you’ve tethered it to the past. I don’t know that Jack would be able to express it in those terms but I think on some level he understands that and just doesn’t want to think about it.
Now that Jack is in school these moments happen a lot more frequently than they did in the past. It seems like it’s always his first “this” or his last “that”; it’s a spring concert or an open house; it’s a report card or, well, you get the point—school is rich with moments that parents are going to want to cherish forever. One of these moments happened last week—the Mother/Son (or Father/Daughter depending on how the chromosome turned) Dance. As you can probably guess Kim was thrilled when she heard about it, Jack was, well, let’s just say he was less than enthusiastic. At first we went the route most parents take, explaining he’d have fun, it’s a special memory, etc. If you know Jack though you know he’s more stubborn than most and logic just makes him dig in his heels. Next I tried the “buddy” method. I explained that no little boy wants to go to a dance with their mother but it’s something he was just going to have to do. When that didn’t work I took the path that Red from “That 70’s Show” would have taken explaining that he had to go because if he didn’t I’d put my foot in his ass (rest assured people my foot has never been near his ass, my hand never raised, Jack has only seen violence on television and laughs at most of my attempts at discipline.) He didn’t like it but knew arguing was pointless, he just resolved himself to going and having a miserable time.
Because my wife is a saint in a lot of ways she agreed to take prom like photos of the children and their parents. This meant she was going to be spending a lot of time not dancing with Jack, instead photographing other parents who did dance with their child. That also meant I would have to go to supervise our young ward. I was beginning to understand how Jack felt! This is usually the point in these stories where we reach a conclusion both meaningful and contradictory to how the story seemed to be leading. There is no such ending here. Kim ended up taking photos for probably 9.9999/10th of the dance and as a result got to spend almost no time with Jack. Jack was happy but only because he got to gorge himself on brownies and pretzels. Oh sure, he did dance, I saw him line dancing to a few songs, doing the Funky Chicken and shaking his booty to a few other songs. Of course as soon as Kim had the chance to dance with Jack he decided not to and also decided that would be his chance to explain why he didn’t want to dance, why this was no fun and how it wasn’t his idea to be there. Kim was denied her moment.
I guess if there’s any point to this it’s that try as we might we can’t assign significance to moments before they happen, even if the moment seems like it’s coming to you gift wrapped with a bow on top. You’ll think that wedding or birthday or whatever is just crying out for a moment to take place and it will all go to shit. The funny thing about life though is that when you least expect it, at the line at the grocery store, waiting in the drive through, while out buying shoes, a moment you never expected will sneak up on you and be burned into everyone’s memories all at once. You’ll cherish it, he’ll forget he hates memories and you’ll feel the pull of eternity. Of course right after he’ll dump a glass of water or scream because there’s onion on his burger or something but that unexpected moment will happen and it makes all the ruined Mother/Son Dances worthwhile. If you’re like me, you write a weekly column and can recognize it when it happens and will bathe in its glory.