The Odd “Celebrity” Status of A Child
Yesterday, due to the oddities of winter weather in Tennessee and the Nashville area’s lack of knowing-how-to-do-anything-about-it, my wife Emily got the day off from school, and we both got to spend the day with our daughter Addison on her second birthday. We opened gifts, took a few pictures and made a couple quick videos, put new toys together, made a mess with watermelon cupcakes (twice), Skyped with family, watched Grease Live and played at the McDonald’s playground.
All in all, it was a magical day – one of those you just get lucky to have and are equally grateful to receive.
But I had this weird observation about things that caused me to take a step back and think about how truly blessed my wife and I actually are.
Stick with me here on this – if you’re a parent you’ve definitely experienced what I’m about to describe, you probably just don’t know you have.
It was after our third Skype call of the day. In turn, Emily’s mother, my brother, and my mother and stepfather had gotten a chance to see and interact with Addie on her special day. Obviously, they were all tickled to spend some time with her, albeit from a distance. Short of getting to hold her personally, this was a wonderful gift for them indeed. And we still had a few more Skype and FaceTime calls to go.
After my stepfather ended our Skype call, I had this distinct impression that it was like Addie was some kind of a celebrity. And on her birthday, everyone wanted a piece of her – to see her, to talk to her, to watch the silly things she does and to generally be entertained by her precociousness. But rather than be jealous (I could understand why you might think I would go there), I had a completely different feeling.
People – mostly family members, of course – were thrilled to get just a few minutes of our daughter’s time. It was a joy for them to get to connect with her, see and hear and watch, for just those few minutes. A few minutes out of days and weeks and months (in some cases). It’s such a wonderful thing that modern technology allows them this kind of access – something they wouldn’t have had were it twenty or thirty years ago. Indeed, when I was but two, there was nothing of the sort.
And then it’s over. The call is disconnected; they go back to their day having been touched by our little princess. Disappointed that the call is over, certainly, but – more than anything – ecstatic. As if our little girl is famous.
I’m not trying to suggest that Addie is special in this sense. She’s a child. People – family members in particular – love little kids. It’s not that Addie’s special or that other kids and families don’t experience this kind of thing. That, in and of itself, is not unique.
What’s unique is that Emily and I are the ones that get to spend nearly every waking moment with her. Where everyone else has to disconnect and go home or go about their business, Emily and I still have special behind-the-scenes access. We are the ones that get to be a part of this little celebrity’s inner circle. We’re her entourage, if you will.
When I look at it like this – and I know it’s a rather weird way to look at it – it makes every moment with Addie that much more special. Everyone wants to be around her, but we’re the ones that get to go behind closed doors. We know her in a way no one else knows.
I was already ensuring that I wasn’t taking any moment for granted. Now I know that I had no idea what that even meant. This has created an entirely new context for how I view my relationship with my daughter, and how I spend my time with her.
What would it be like to not get to be around her all the time – to have the same kind of access everyone but us has? I would like to say I can’t imagine it, but the best I can muster is that I don’t want to imagine it.
Because, someday, I won’t have a choice. Someday, Emily and I won’t be a part of our little diva’s entourage. We won’t get to go behind closed doors and the best we’ll get is a few minutes here and there.
I won’t lie – that scares the shit out of me.
So I need to up my game. I already get to see her more than any other person on the planet does, save for my wife. What matters more than anything – more than the amount of time – is that I make the moments I have with her count. I need to live every ten minutes with her like they’re the only ten minutes I get for weeks or months at a time. I need to make the most of those ten minutes just like everyone else does.
And remind myself every day that each second I get with her – each moment that comes and goes – is a gift. I need to take it all in and treasure it.
It’s only a matter of time before we disconnect.