Saying Goodbye to a Five Year Old

When I picked up my son after school a few days ago, he walked slowly to the door, head down and quiet. He normally bounds over to me when I show up at the end of the day. He got his hat and jacket on without saying much, and we walked out to the car.

When we got home I opened the car door, and he looked like he was about to cry. “I don’t want you to go on another trip,” he said.

That morning we had talked about the fact that I was leaving in a few days for a conference. I had only just returned home from another trip. “I just want some special time with you and me,” he said, reaching out and grabbing my hand. We decided that we’d go out for dinner together that night, and get ice cream afterwards.

An hour later we walked out the front door and he stopped in his tracks, looking up at the night sky. It was a clear, cold winter night, and the stars filled the sky. He smiled as he looked up at in awe. Usually we eat dinner around six, get ready for bed by seven and are reading books by eight. So he hasn’t had that many chances to see the night sky, so dark and deep and full.

I just watched him studying the stars, seeing the world through his eyes, feeling his wonder and thinking about how some goodbyes never become routine. I wanted to hold on to that moment.

The next day, before I left for my trip, my son was giving my wife a hard time before bed. He was stomping around the room, demanding extra time to play with his toys before bedtime. When I came in the room to check on him, his frustration gave way to sobs. He threw his arms around my neck and said he just wanted to have some extra time to hang out with me before I left the next day.

So we set aside the bedtime books, and got out his LEGOs. For an hour my wife, my son and I played together and he was so happy; so appreciative of the uninterrupted attention. I looked at him, like he looked up at those stars, full of wonder and grateful for the chance to see something I might have normally missed in the rush of everyday life.

After we played he happily hopped into bed, snuggling in close while I read a short story, and I felt him holding on to me, holding on to that moment.

I was holding on too, and still am.

Image by ScotBot on Flickr used under CC license.

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