In the Great Northwest, September brings with it brilliant flames of leaves falling to the cooling earth. It brings unrelenting rain that bonds us together and sends us scurrying for the shelter of our favorite local coffee shop. It brings the madness of Seahawk weekends, a whole region awash in blue and green and the number 12.
We say goodbye to the usually perfect sun-splashed Northwest summers and say hello to the mysterious, rowdy, and ever-darkening fall.
And of course September marks when our children leave the lazy, spontaneous days of summer behind and return to the busy, structured days of school.
And with a snap of the fingers, your third-grader is now a fourth-grader. Your preschooler is a big kindergartner. Your elementary-schooler is a middle-schooler, your middle-schooler is a high-schooler, and (gulp), your high-schooler is headed off to college.
My son, Phoenix, who seemingly just yesterday I caught as he came rushing into the world in a water-birth in our home in Seattle, is now a sophomore at the Science and Math Institute in Tacoma. My toddler boy who used to astound our friends at parties with his Neil deGrasse Tyson-like knowledge of the universe is now studying chemistry in high school? That same toddler who lined his Matchbox cars up for hours on end is almost old enough to drive?
It’s enough to make a dad cry.
My daughter, Halcyon, who seemingly just yesterday I caught as she burst into the world in our Tacoma home, is now a sixth grader in her first year at Mason Middle School. My toddler girl who for more than a month insisted on responding only when we called her Bolt the dog now takes her own dog for walks? That same toddler who once wrote all over herself on a road trip is now writing passionate and lyrical short stories and novels?
It’s enough to make a dad cry.
This steamroller we call the passage of time keeps trundling over the years. We warn each other to take it all in. And we do our best–but we blink, and our babies are gone.
My wife feels this so much that she refuses to watch the film Boyhood. She doesn’t want to see a little boy and a little girl grow up over the course of a few hours. The idea of it is too painful. Who needs a movie when we have real life?
And of course we are not alone.
My friend Sharilyn saw her daughter travel all the way to Ohio last year for her freshman year in college. She began the countdown for when she would see her again the moment she dropped her off. She will start the process all over again when her son leaves for college next fall.
This summer my friend Mike drove his daughter across the country to college in Indiana for her freshman year. He wanted to make the time with his once-little girl last as long as it could.
After saying goodbye to his daughter, who is finishing her senior year in London, my friend Noah, who is not a big crier, found himself weeping in the airplane bathroom on the long flight home.
But of course the reason it all hurts so much is because we love so much. And it doesn’t disappear in a flash. It just feels that way sometimes. No, the time we have with our children is long. And it is beautiful and messy and thrilling and hard and crazy and wondrous. And so we do our best to fill every moment with something good. We hold on to the mundane moments and the monumental moments.
We hold those moments close like we once held our little baby boys and girls. And when we hold those memories close, yes we cry tears of sorrow, but we also cry tears of joy.