Milestones in childrearing

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(Host) Maybe it’s the change of seasons, or maybe it’s the onset of the holidays, but recently commentator David Moats found himself feeling nostalgic over the initial on a business card.

(Moats) Kids grow up. That shouldn’t surprise us. We all grow up. But there are moments of recognition every now and then reminding us of the separate pathways our offspring are traveling.

Of course, when I was young, I wanted nothing more than to travel a separate path. It took me a long way from my family and took me to myself, which, weirdly, brought me closer to my family.

One of those moments of recognition occurred 13 years ago when I dropped off my son and a friend with their backpacks at Brandon Gap. They were 14 years old, and they were headed out on the Long Trail. I remember looking back at them as they walked to the trailhead. They weren’t looking back. They had their packs on, and I remember noticing the muscles of their calves. They were on their own.

There was another moment when I dropped my other son at the Newark airport for his college semester in Austria. I watched him as he walked away, down that long concourse. I kept my eye on his bright red cap until he was out of sight. He didn’t look back either.

My most recent moment occurred when my older son invited me to the open house of a new gallery in Jericho. The gallery was in an old converted barn that had been restored to display works of art.
My son was the job supervisor for the restoration. I was proud of him, of course, but what really got me was when he showed me his business card. It had the name of his company, and then it had his name and job title. And his name included his middle initial – W.

He doesn’t usually use his middle initial, and I’m not used to seeing it, but there it was. His middle name is William, after his grandfather and uncle. And to see that W., there in its official, grown-up capacity, somehow connected him in my mind to my father and older brother.

I wanted my father to be proud of me. And I’m sure he would have been proud of his grandson – these two Williams, living their distinct lives in their distinct eras.

All of this is really just a meditation on the passage of time, which is something that whacks us in little and big ways throughout our lives. We shape our lives for ourselves, then we watch the step-by-step progress of our children, repeating the pattern as they go from kindergarten to gallery opening.

People get sentimental about these things. But the bittersweet quality that accompanies everything from the first day of school to graduation ceremonies is really about the relentlessness of time and how we have to savor each step as it passes – because it passes.

I love the W. there on his card. It’s probably an ordinary thing to him. But it’s not ordinary at all.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

David Moats in the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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