Since my kids are ‘tweeners, I’ve been feeling pretty wistful about how much of their childhood is over. My son’s 10th birthday was spent at Chuck E Cheese’s (not the indulgent $20 per kid party, we were just eating pizza and hanging out). Most of the kids there were younger than Zaphod. I spent the whole time thinking to myself “This is it. Next year, he’ll want to go to the mall or something.”
Zaphod asked me for a digital camera for Christmas. It took a while for that to sink in. He didn’t say, “I’m going to ask Santa for a digital camera”, he asked me directly. I’m kind of in a mild panic about it. Does this mean we have to have that long-dreaded conversation about Santa before I’m ready, or is this his way of letting me off the hook? Regardless, it’s another milestone I’m really not ready to face.
Then last night, I got a reprieve of sorts. At bedtime, the kids wanted to hear a chicken story.
That’s right, I said “chicken story”.
When the kids were little, we read to the children at bedtime each night, just like the 10-second celebrity PSAs told us to do. But Thursday nights were different. In old time storyteller fashion, I would weave a tall tale, telling it with as much flair and over-the-top drama as I could muster. Because the kids liked animals, and because I love the alliteration in the word “chicken” (just the sound of the word is comedic), I told the stories about a family of chickens on the Johnson farm.
Zaphod and Trillian sat on the end of the bed mezmerized by stories of Rooster Red, Henrietta Hen, and their favorite, Farnsworth the Flatulent. The latter was able to save the whole chicken coop from a fox attack by strategically eating a big Mexican dinner for lunch. Lintilla was none too pleased that I told that story.
As time passed, it got harder to make things up on the spot. Since they were little, for a while I was able to get away with retelling famous movie plots with chickens as the lead characters. But as time passed, they caught onto this too (plus, I was running out of movie plots). I started making excuses not to tell the stories, they became more infrequent, then stopped altogether, even though Zaphod and Trillian would beg for one every so often.
It hit me a couple of days ago that I had been channeling the ghost of Harry Chapin. How stupid of me! I had blown off a major part of my kids’ childhood, and now it was gone! They are getting too old to want to hear “those” stories any more.
Then, last night, Lintilla was sick, so she couldn’t read to Trillian (who still likes to be read to in bed). I offered to read, but Trillian asked instead for a chicken story. When I said “OK”, Zaphod, to my surprise, rushed over from his room to hear the story. It was hard, because I’m out of practice. Since they are currently doing book reports on historical fiction, I weaved up a civil war era chicken story. Things were a little different – they kept interrupting me to correct some fine historical point – yet they listened to the end and made me promise I’d give another next week.
It is comforting to know, if we pay attention, that God eases us into these things. Hyperbole aside, our kids do not go overnight from dolls to makeup, from toy cars to real cars. I will hold this time and cherish it. Perhaps, it is the best time of all.