I remember being young, too young to really want for anything, young enough that the smell of cut grass and lawn mower exhaust was just a smell and not something nostalgic and gone, young enough that a Pepsi float on the couch with my mom was something that seemed completely routine instead of hint of a memory.

I remember wanting to be older.

Sean was older, and as cool as hell. Perfect hair, dark skin, and a smile that made every girl want to marry him. He played guitar, sang with a perfect voice, and spit tobacco. I was older then than when I was on the couch with Mom, but still not old enough. Sean was older, getting the girls, so much better at guitar. And, I mentioned getting the girls, but it’s impossible to overstate it’s importance. When I was older than a kid, I was still a kid and Sean was a picture of what I needed to be.

Ronnie was wiser than me, more seasoned, a better writer, and already setting out on adventures. He had beer in his fridge that he wouldn’t offer me, although I could tell he wanted to. He played guitar, too, and let me come over to see him play. He was older, and I was still too young to follow him out across journalism’s plains. Once he was gone, I would hear stories of where he went, what he was doing, what I could maybe do when I was older.

After that, it wasn’t people so much as privileges. I wanted to drink legally, get out of college, get a job, get a better job, get out of TV, become a real writer, do something with my life, be somebody, be something worthwhile, be anything. Thirty-five years of my life have been focused on waiting for tomorrow, waiting for the thing I want, waiting for that magical something I can’t quite grasp.

Even being a parent made me wish for time to pass faster. I wanted him to be older so the crying would stop, so he would be out of diapers, so he could feed himself, so he could talk, so he could go to school, so we could play catch.

d-snoconeTonight, I stood in a miserable heat, so totally soaked with sweat that I thought there was the off chance I was having a heat stroke. I was red-faced, old, broken down, and tired. I was also so utterly and completely in love with my family, it didn’t matter what a mess I was. More than anything, I was looking at my older son and begging for time to stand still. Right now, he does’t want to be older. He just wants to be, and it makes him so perfect, it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it.

I won’t lie. Marriage is hard and parenting is even harder. Both take an almost unnatural sacrifice and sometimes it’s hard to grasp. It’s not always beautiful and both are routinely so confounding, it’s hard to understand how anyone makes it work. And then you happen upon nights like this. It’s nothing so remarkable as to write about, except to say, despite being a routine family event, I know I will remember it forever. I have a lot of things in my life I hold as permanent memories. Thing was, tonight I stood there dripping with sweat and staring at my son’s face and I knew I’d never forget the moment, never forget his joy, never forget how perfect he looked.

He turns five this week. I’ve been photographing him and taking videos like I’m getting ready to go off to war. It won’t be long before he’s depressed about not being older. Hell, it won’t be long before he’s as old as me and wishing for his youth back.

He wouldn’t understand if I begged him to stay five forever. I suppose I wouldn’t ever ask him to.

But, damn, I wish there was a way I could feel like this every day.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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12 Responses

  1. KenP says:

    three-score and ten
    do the divide thing
    half way there

    Years really don’t count though. What has crested is the hill. It is downhill but — unless you are Peaker — that is an enjoyable thing.

    Not saying good, bad or whatever. It is only the transition that will take place before you know it. You’ve written a lot about it from the other perspective. Now the page turns. Your folks enjoyed that and you documented it. Bet you will too.

    How’s Uno doing in his ABC’s? Montessori have a writing major? He’ll have shoes to fill before either of you know it.

  2. AtlantaSusan says:

    That was so sweet. Just kiss and hug him as much as you can.

  3. BadBlood says:

    Otis is the sum of many parts. Glad to see the parent part is such a good one.

  4. pokertart says:

    Parenthood – the ultimate heartbreaker. I loved this post….makes me want to go home right now and hug my little boy.

  5. AgSweep says:

    If you keep writing like this I am going to have to stop reading before my morning coffee. I hate sniffleling before I have coffee! Hold tight to these childhood years for they pass all too quickly. I have always felt sorry for the parents who at the end of the day felt they sacrificed too much for their children and marriages. Everybody periodically resents the familial burdens but looking at the amazing, complex, imperfect, fascinating individuals my children have turned out to be I wouldn’t change a thing.

  6. Bam-Bam says:

    It always seems that the truly remarkable moments, tend to present themselves at the most un-remarkable times. Thanks for sharing.

    Oh…… and staying at 5 is the bomb! ‘Cept he’ll turn out to be just like me so, I’d be careful what you wish for if I were you.


  7. Drizztdj says:

    I once wanted nothing but to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible.

    After the accident and parenting kicked in, I’d rather enjoy the view from the rung I’ve reached and do more things that excite me versus my superiors at work.

    “become a better writer” You’re doing it right, great post Otis.

  8. OhCaptain says:

    Well said.

    I too remember looking at my infant children and wishing they were older so that I could understand them. They slept, ate and pooped. I wanted more. Now, time is moving to fast and seeing the grow up so fast has me begging the ride operator to slow this thing down.

    Great post!

  9. Very true. There are the days when the kids come into town where I could stay up all night just to watch them sleep.

    You are “a better writer” but you have the title that is more important


  10. Julius_Goat says:

    Wow, what a beautiful piece. My oldest two turned five in May and just entered kindergarten, and I’m always on the edge of a nostalgic tsunami. This resonated strongly.

    Lovely. Thank you.

  11. MGM says:

    Yeah. Totally know this feeling. I’ve been begging my kiddos to never grow up. It started when they were a few weeks old and has continued for the past six years. My girl just turned six and just lost her first tooth the “real” way today (without dental assistance as she lost the others). I had one of these moments today that you describe. Whenever these moments come, I wonder how many more years I’ll continue to have them. It’s almost as disconcerting as wondering if they will one day cease. Parenting finds me in a constant conundrum.

  12. Da Goddess says:

    It gets even more difficult to slow the clock the older they get.

    I stood at the edge of a runway two days ago and watched my son and my daughter float off into the air, pure joy on their faces. And I was both thrilled and terrified because I wanted them to have fun and I also had no way of knowing that they’d come back to me in one piece. Life is kind of like that. As they get older, you just have to trust that they’ll keep coming back to you, happier for the experience of soaring above the clouds, happier because you loved them enough to let them do so.