Last-minute bonding to make up for lost time

Another kid is about to go off to college, and I’m hoping we can cram in some Power Bonding during these last couple of weeks. Play catch; driving lessons; go to the movies; maybe some yachting or a quick trip to Switzerland.

There’s a slight note of desperation whenever I speak.

“Let’s go to a baseball game like we used to, and then to that pizza place we like so much, and then come home and play our favorite board game!” I say.

“But Dad, you’ve never taken me to a baseball game, we haven’t gone out for pizza in at least 10 years, and we don’t have a favorite board game,” she says.

These kids, they don’t remember anything! But whatever: I’m checking the calendar and thinking: I’ve still got two weeks to establish a bunch of memories. We can create some new family traditions upon which we will, in the future, gaze back fondly. I may rush out today and buy some chickens, goats, pigs or other animals so that we can later recall how I taught the kids the simple virtues of raising livestock.

“Remember how we used to go out on cold mornings and collect the eggs from the chicken coop?” I will say. That would have a nice ring to it. Much better than, say, “Remember how I used to always give you a ride to Georgetown?”

It’s not true that kids grow up fast. What is true is that it seems fast if you’re paying too much attention to other stuff.

Watching a kid grow up is the most astonishing thing in the world. I’ve said it many times: For sheer drama, nothing is more amazing than the first couple of years, the transformation of the newborn, this helpless, soft lump of flesh with a big head and stubby limbs, into a toddling, talking, willful, perceptive 2-year-old human being. And nothing is more bittersweet than sending a fully grown, intelligent, highly competent teenager off to college.

It’s what you want, what you hoped for. It’s a triumph for all involved. And it’s one of the saddest moments of your life.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."


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