As I rolled out for work this morning, the neighbor’s youngest, Lucas, came to the edge of the driveway, a devilish four-year-old grin on his face, in his hand a plump water balloon. He looked up at me, half in threat, half in search of permission. I smiled back, half in fear, half in complicity. His brother and my kids had just left together for their last day of school. The air simmered with rebellion.
Too often, I find myself on the wrong side of the parent/child divide. While I am cleaning and organizing, pajamas crumpled on the stairs next to a stuffed animal, shoes abandoned by the front door, the remains of breakfast, the boys are hurling themselves headlong into the day. If the project of parenthood is to rediscover youth through your children, then I am failing horribly.
Fortunately, their irrepressibality mostly overcomes my attempts to repress, to keep all the color inside the lines.
And Rob said, “No, let’s not double-back. Let’s just stick to the route,” even though we both knew the trail we were passing up was better than the road we were rolling. Adults find comfort in order, in things unfolding as we expect them to.
How many detours have I bypassed thinking I’d check them out later? How many rides have I declined because I was tired?
Today is the last day of school in our neighborhood, all the kids capering along the sidewalks, the wide expanse of summer yawning before them. I always associate this time of year with Hüsker Dü’s Celebrated Summer, “Getting drunk out on the beach/Or playing in a band/And getting out of school/Meant getting out of hand.”
I made one concession to the fuck-it-ness of the day and rode to work with no helmet. I felt vulnerable.
I told Lucas he could water balloon me on my way home, to be ready. Then, with some encouragement, he threw his balloon up into the air and watched as it splattered darkly in the dust and pollen of the street, lines of spray radiating out from the center. We all looked at the curious pattern for a moment, trying to find evidence of the sweating balloon that had been floating skyward only a second before. But, water balloons are like childhood, richly promising, and then suddenly, sadly over.