At what point do you stop referring to your children as kids?
My wife and I are parents of two beautiful children. Both are now full-fledged, card-carrying adults with health insurance and FICO scores.
But too often, when speaking with other adults, I catch myself referring to our children as kids — which, as adults, they are not.
In conversations with others, the term spills out of my mouth like an out-of-tune piano, trying but unable to hit the right note.
My wife and I feel blessed with two children we like and enjoy hanging around. Both own solid work ethics, are honest to a fault and carry generous hearts.
But those kids — the same ones who trustingly stood on top of my feet learning to ride a skateboard or sounded out words during bedtime readings — are long gone. Only now they text photos of them standing atop an eight-hour hike up and down a mountainside or holding a kitten they rescued from a bush.
In our neighborhood, my wife and I are now the older folks on the block. The soundtrack of our street features kids chasing one another with lightsabers and the occasional afternoon of hand-blown bubbles dancing across our fence line. A Big Wheel parked on the sidewalk, baseball in the street and Halloween costumes in July don’t register as odd.
Our children are now long gone, one in a different time zone, the other deep into another stage of adulthood. A game of catch buried in the distant past and the old costumes tucked away in storage boxes are increasingly considered collector’s items.
“Kids” is an odd but universal term. The word children, however, is both literal and dryly scientific. While the latter is timeless, the former eventually asks to go out the door like an impatient puppy. And out of respect, we need to let it.
But as a parent, this is hard to unwind in the space between our ears.
I remember as a kid nothing chafed like being relegated to the kids’ table for a holiday meal. My brother and cousins all jockeyed for the day we’d be invited to sit at the big table with the adults, the place where the laughter ran as thick and heavy as brown gravy. One day, we trusted, we’d move up to the adults’ table.
Reality proved otherwise. Christmas after Christmas, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, our holidays included a card table in the living room or shaky plastic television trays. As kids, we were stuck in limbo waiting for the call to join the big table.
The spell of being considered a kid, it seems, didn’t fade until marriage and bringing your own into the world. Doing so earned you a trip past Go, collect your $200, and grab a chair at the adults’ table.
I guess the most beautiful memories of life will always anchor our sense of being. And if being a parent means we will always have kids, so be it.