We just finished celebrating my little one’s birthday. You never really comprehend the speed of time’s passage until you see it’s work on a child. When you’re an adult, a year can blur into another. But seeing the difference a year makes in my little one is staggering.
I have a confession. I’m a proud parent. The sort that will go on endlessly about my son if some unwitting person opens that door. He’s hardly perfect, but he is better than I could have asked. In terms of behavior, intelligence, and health. I have been profoundly blessed.
Another confession. I have not always loved and savored my time with my little one as much as now. That isn’t to say I was unhappy before, I was happy. Or that I didn’t love him or feel a tenderness towards him, I did. What I mean is the measure of each has increased so much I’m startled. Much of that is due to seeing and hearing the little person coming out in him. His creativity and innocence. And his silliness, so much silliness.
For all my happiness, there looms what I have perceived as a dark cloud. My little one starts school this year and I dread it. Not school itself, having a wife as a teacher and spent eight years of university studies, I like school and learning. What I don’t like is what it represents. He is entering the world and that inexorable wearying and jading works on everyone will happen to my sweet, innocent little one. His smiles will become fewer, his love less free in giving and perhaps sincerity. He will cease to be young and gain knowledge and wisdom, both good but also equally tragic.
It’s no coincidence that at the moment I’m re-reading Perelandra by CS Lewis. The second book of his space trilogy is about a speculative second Eden and Temptation. The Eve of Perelandra (Venus) is aided by Lewis’s protagonist in trying to resist the Temptor and stave off that world’s Fall. There is something remarkably similar, at least on the surface, between the loss of innocence and joy at the Fall of Man and childhood’s end.
I don’t mean to launch into a long examination of those parallels or an exegesis of Perelandra. One thing has kind of stuck out to me. There’s a number of discussions in the book about good or rather goods. For a long time now my dread of my little one growing up has centered on the change in his nature and our relationship. There’s nothing quite like having him run up and insist I come play with him (the parallels with our relationship with God that it invokes could be a post of its own). I wish I could convey how wonderful that is and how I don’t want that to pass. Perelandra calls that looking back to the wave, the good, that has passed. Trying to cling to it.
Sometimes I get nostalgic for before my little one was around. The ease and flexibility my wife and I had to do so many things. Things we can’t do now (like go out together after 8 PM to do an escape room or anything really). And sleep, a full eight hours while still having accomplished all I need to in a day…yeah, I miss that very much. Those were good times.
What I had trouble grasping till contextualizing it with my relationship with my little one is that notion of there being a good that is and a good that has passed. That each is good but different in quality should have been obvious. Also, that are good we want but those we are given has taken new meaning with me. Because life before my son was good, but life with him is good as well. They are good for different reasons and in different ways. Soon the good I have now will pass and there will be a different good. Lord willing, the good of seeing my son grow and become a man. His first sports game, first “A”, my dearest hope that he becomes a follower of Christ. He will not doubt grow cooler and more distant from me. But there are so many new goods I would be blessed to have, I can’t begrudge having to let go of the one I’ve enjoyed.
There is of course the possibility of good I would not choose. Maybe there are no “A”s ahead, no sports, there may indeed be no time ahead at all for me or him. Such good can hurt to take. God adjures us in Scripture to keep pressing on (Philippians 3:12-14), to forget what lays behind and strive for what’s ahead. I feel like Perelandra and my son have taught me to not just think about moving on from the sinful past but not being tripped up by the previous good either. Certainly, we are to remember things, and in times when repentance is needed to return to old ways (Hebrews 10:32-35, Revelation 2:2-5, 3:2-4). But clinging to an old good out of envy for the past, a covetous desire for something you do not have, that we should leave behind. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
Whether it is a good we choose or not, or a new type of good of different quality and even degree, all are to be received with Thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18). So, that’s what I’m going to fight to remember, as I relish the closing days of my son’s innocent childhood and the coming days of him becoming the man God would have him to become.