Parenting

Our kids are too big to ride in the wagon

Ian wasn't emotionally prepared for how quickly his daughters would grow up.

Ian can't believe how quickly his daugthers have grown up.

Of the four members in my family, I am the one who is least likely to show any emotions in public.

I was the only one who didn’t get teary-eyed at the end of Toy Story 3, although I will admit it was getting dusty inside the theatre.

So I have to confess I was thrown off when I had an emotional moment on Monday afternoon. Naturally, this moment occurred while I was alone in the backyard shed — which is the best place to have one of these breakdowns if you’re a guy. You can always claim that you’ve got some grass clippings in your eye if a neighbour sees you crying.  

I was moving some things around in the shed, when I came upon our kids’ wagon. It suddenly dawned on me that our kids were now too big to ride in that wagon. Elissa will turn nine in a few weeks and Lily is closing in on her sixth birthday as well.

Staring at the wagon, I realized that I was devastated to think that my kids would probably never sit in there again. It seems like just yesterday that we got the wagon as a gift, when Elissa was about three years old. I can vividly recall my father-in-law assembling the wagon and me serving as his helpful assistant. (“Can I get you a beer or anything to drink?” I remember asking him).

I was so excited to have something other than a stroller to take Elissa in around the neighbourhood.

The wagon was a great negotiating tool as a parent. If the kids were too tired to walk to school, I would always say, “You can ride in the wagon.” They loved riding in that wagon because it meant they didn’t have to exert any physical energy — a trait they clearly inherited from my side of the family.

There was a cup holder to hold their drink boxes and a special storage compartment under the bench that allowed them to bring home a collection of rocks, dandelions and other earthly things from the park. They loved that wagon because the world no longer viewed them as babies in a stroller. They were big kids out exploring the neighbourhood around them.

But looking at that wagon on Monday afternoon reminded me that we’ve just involuntarily passed another milestone. When your kids are really little, all you can think about is getting to the next stage.

In fact, you become obsessed with passing milestones.

I can’t wait until they sleep through the night.

I can’t wait until they start walking.

I can’t wait until they’re potty trained.

I can’t wait until I can get rid of the stroller.

And then all of a sudden, you stop wishing for the next stage to come. You just want to freeze things the way they are in the here and now. And I think that’s what hit me on Monday afternoon.  

I don’t want my kids to be too old for the wagon, because that means they’ve moved past another stage. Pretty soon, they’re going to be too old for me to tuck them in at night. Then they’re going to be too old for me to walk them all the way up to the school gate in the morning. And one day they’re going to be asking to go to the mall with their friends and I’ll wonder what happened to my little girls who loved to play with their Littlest Pet Shop figures.

People always told me that time would go by fast when our kids were born, but I never realized that Father Time would be flooring it with the accelerator like this.

So if you see me looking a little misty-eyed in the backyard, I’ll claim it’s because my allergies are acting up. But chances are, I’m probably thinking about that wagon.