(Originally posted May 25, 2009, this post from a simple morning encounter when Fenya was 10 years old (where the hell does the time go, seriously?) remains one of my favourites. I hope she doesn't find this recollection or raw sentiment too embarrassing, but this, too, is part of a father's role; sorry kid!
They say bloggers need to be content with the notion that they are writing for an audience of one, and going back to this post both justified and invalidated that position: I'm glad I captured my thoughts on it shortly after it happened, and I've received some lovely comments about it as well.)
This morning, as we all went about our morning ablutions and general ante meridiem routines, Fenya wandered into the kitchen with no shirt on.
This is not really a big deal; so much not so, in fact, that it took me a moment to notice. With four people sharing a single bathroom, modesty is something we have never really bothered with in our household, frankly. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and if that means stepping over someone on the biffy whilst en route to the shower, so be it. Many are the bedtimes where I have been bowled over by 1-2 clothesless children screaming "NAKED HUG!" at the top of their lungs, and we wouldn't have it any other way. The girls are still discreet in public and self conscious enough not to streak in front of the living room window, and they generally refrain from naked hug charges while company is over, and that sort of thing, so it has never been a cause for concern.
I know it can't last, and that the time for casual household nudity will draw to a close, and that's fine. Fenya has already started to ask that I wait for an answer before entering her room, which probably has more to do with her beginning to wear a training bra than any kind of shame about nudity. Her appearance in the kitchen this morning sans blouse really drew it into sharp relief for me though; there are probably not a lot of sunny mornings left where she will drift into the kitchen with no top and casually feed the dog, and I probably won't even notice the change until it has come and gone.
With a little luck, my children will keep a certain degree of childish outlook throughout their lives, much as I have tried to do. I worked with a fellow years ago, who maintained "Maturity is not acting like an adult, it's knowing when it's appropriate to act like a child." But childishness and childhood are very different in my estimation. Time is running out on so many things; things like a trip to Disneyland, funny faces, being dropped off at school within sight of their friends, general silliness, stuffed animals, naming and anthropomorphizing everything they come across, talking to animals like they are going to respond in kind, asking questions and not worrying about looking foolish, singing along with music or shows, et cetera, et cetera.
I can get pretty maudlin about matters like this. It is so vitally important to me that my kids look back on a childhood full of love and fun and support but most of all childishness, and I wear my heart way out on my sleeve in this, as I do in so many things. So much so, in fact, that I have started to withhold what I am actually feeling at times like these so I don't inadvertently make my daughters feel guilty about growing up!
And so it was, when Fenya stumbled into the kitchen this morning, wearing just her jeans, as she collected Nitti's water dish and brought it over to the sink to refill, and I looked but I didn't see her. I saw sand dropping through the neck of an hourglass, and every grain was a diamond of exquisite clarity and brilliance and I thought briefly about how best to catch them, when Fenya interrupted me.
"Daddy? What's the matter?"
I thought about telling her, but again, she already knows that as much as I love to watch her grow up, I miss the child she was yesterday, and just how selfish do I need to be anyways? Moments like these are like the chalk mandalas they draw in far flung monasteries, full of effort and detail and beauty, but ultimately ephemeral, like childhood itself. I'm still learning to enjoy the flower where it grows, rather than picking it and taking it with me.
I smiled and said, "Nothing, I was just thinking."