Not long ago, Lukey was standing at his train table pushing his wooden engines around and talking to himself. It took me a minute to realize what he was saying. He was counting to ten in Spanish.
I’m not a Spanish speaker, more’s the pity (French has limited usefulness here in California). But I think it’s fabulous that the boys’ preschool is introducing them to the language at such a young age. And as I heard Lukey babbling “siete, ocho, nueve,” it occurred to me that my kids may well end up being fluent in a language that I just don’t know. They’ll know something that I don’t. In other words, it’ll be the reverse of how things are now, when I’m the expert in nearly every category, from tying shoes to answering questions about whether mummies are alive or dead. I suppose I’d better enjoy this default expert status, because I won’t have it forever. There will come a day when the kids will know way more than I do, when they’ll have experiences that I have never had.
Years ago, before I had kids and even before I knew Scott, I was at a party. It was your typical Silicon Valley party, in a house rented by three single guys, a house that had virtually no living room furniture save a top-of-the-line entertainment system. I found myself shouting over the techno music and talking to a young dad who was there with his wife and small child. The dad had spiky hair and black clothing and a British accent; his wife had a nose piercing and wore Doc Martens, and their little son, who looked to be about a year and a half, climbed all over his dad’s lap and danced, adorably, to the music. “It’s just so amazing, being a parent,” the dad said. “You watch your kids and think about the future, about how they’ll do all the things you never did.” He paused for a moment. “’Course, there isn’t really anything my wife and I haven’t done,” he said thoughtfully, “except maybe be fascists.” That made me smile.
So what will my boys do that I haven’t? Learn to speak fluent Spanish? Play football? Run for political office? Hitchhike around Asia? Who knows? I know there are plenty of things I hope they don’t do, namely anything involving high speeds or illegal substances. But there are plenty of fascinating, amazing experiences that I haven’t had (and am rather unlikely to, probably, at this point) that my boys just may get to experience. And that’s how it is supposed to be.
For years, I’ve loved the poem “On Children,” by Khalil Gibran. These lines really capture it:
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
That’s a bittersweet reality, honestly. And I’m sure it’ll cause some growing pains for me when the boys are older. But it’s also kind of amazing. What will these boys grow up to be? What will they grow up to do?
I don’t know, but it’ll sure be something to find out.