Three years ago, my younger daughter started kindergarten. The school she attends isn’t in our neighborhood, so she rides the bus from our neighborhood school to her school. She was always happy having me around in the morning, waiting for the bus along with her. We even had a song called “Here Comes the Bus” that the Beatles probably would have recognized.
The walkway in front of the neighborhood school lent itself nicely to a game that we invented. My daughter would get a running start down a sidewalk toward the street, and when she came to a small group of three steps at the end of the “runway,” she would jump into my arms, where I would catch her and spin her around a few times before setting her down on the ground. We called this “the run and jump,” and we would do it hundreds of times over the course of a school year. As soon as one round ended, another round usually started up again, to be repeated until the bus came.
Sometimes my older daughter, who attended a different school from my younger daughter, would join in as well. She was a fourth grader at the time, and if there’s one thing she couldn’t stand, it was the sight of her little sister having all the fun. I could even catch them both at the same time, but this was tricky and had to be done very carefully. They both loved the game, and so did I.
Fast forward a couple of years. My older daughter now attends a different school, and has to take a bus from the same school that I described before. She’s in seventh grade now, and not only is she much bigger than she once was, the idea of doing something like the run and jump would be laughable to her. Someone might see her, and then she would get embarrassed, and that’s just how it is at that age. I asked if she wanted to do a run and jump this morning, and she declined with a stare that silently spoke volumes.
Later on in the morning, it was my little one’s turn to catch the bus. She’s eight now, which was well within the timeframe of when her big sister once did the run and jump. But it’s different for her now. Perhaps she’s taking a cue from her big sister, but the run and jump is something she’s not interested in anymore, either. I asked her to reconsider, for old times’ sake, and even promised her I wouldn’t ask again if she agreed to do just one. She took the deal and climbed up the steps to get into position for a running start.
I posted earlier that there isn’t a warning about when childhood things will come to an end. It just happens, leaving a terrible void when it does occur. This morning, I effectively bargained away any future run and jumps with my younger daughter, in return for the warning that I won’t get with so many other things. I didn’t want to do it, and I hope she’ll reconsider as the school year progresses, but if that’s how it is, so be it.
I took out my camera and snapped the picture above, as she was making perhaps her final run toward me. I quickly put the camera away, caught her in midair when she jumped, and spun her around a few more times than usual, since I knew this would have to last me for a while.
My advice to anyone with children in their life is to create something similar to this. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it has to be yours. Something the two of you can share long after they’ve stopped being a kid, because that’s going to happen, and sooner than you think. And once it does, the memory will be all you have left. So take this step sooner, rather than later. I’m glad I did.