When I used to watch “Happy Days” as a kid (and boy, does that date me), it was always hilarious to watch the Fonz try to apologize. He’d take a running start at the key word, like a verbal Olympic track star, but never quite clear the barrier.
“I’m s-s-s-s ….” (Stop, grimace for laugh track.) “I mean, I’m real s-s-s-s- ….”
But that was a sitcom. I’m a grown adult in the real world. Which is why I will have no problem saying that my four-year-old niece has been declared ready for k ….
You know. For k-k-k-k …
This is ridiculous.
Wow. It’s even hard to look at that word on the page.
I’m proud of her, of course. And objectively, it should be no surprise at all. She’s the right age. She’s been doing very well at her pre-school. When she visits, the living room now has a more focused mess that receives at least a token effort of cleanup. And she’s very good at telling our behemoth of a dog “No, Blakie!” when he accidentally whaps his gigantic tail in her face.
So she’s ready. Beyond a doubt. And it’s a good thing.
So why does it feel like the world just caved in?
I know I’m not alone here. (If I were, “Sunrise, Sunset” would be a forgotten song.) And I know a lot of it is sheer human cussedness. We like to think that our world will go on the way it is forever, never changing in any significant way. And when reality intrudes – a shrinking hairline, a growing child, a friend or relative that moves away – it’s unsettling. Sometimes it even seems to give you eyes to the future, where you can suddenly envision the new kindergartner’s first date, her college graduation, her efforts to start a career … all this from the individual who once bound the first floor of your house in yarn because it was fun.
With me, the shock is a triple whammy. Some of you may remember that 2010 was the year I became Uncle Scott in spades, acquiring two nieces and one nephew in a six-month period. (That makes it sound like “The Price is Right,” doesn’t it?) Sometimes at close range and sometimes from over a thousand miles away, I’ve watched them discover finger paints, the Blue Angels, drums, the solar system, ballet and the non-negotiability of naptimes.
So when one of them is ready to cross the bright blue line of The Big K it means all of them are. That they’re growing up. Maybe even that they’re growing away a little, with a part of their lives happening at a distance.
Mind you, I know we want children to grow. I’d be even more disturbed, and for different reasons, if the Terrific Trio of 2010 was 35 years old and living in our basement with no immediate prospects for departure. No one wants to be the helicopter relative or to be dealing with a family full of Peter Pans.
But when so much of a life has been so close, it’s hard to let go. Even a little.
Their life has changed. Your life has changed. And it’s time for you to do a little more growing up, too.
I know this isn’t the end. There will be plenty of exciting adventures ahead. Probably more than a little exasperation, too. But Heather and I watched them transform from confused babies into enthusiastic toddlers and we’re ready – if a little sobered at times – to see what’s coming next.
So go ahead, word. Bring on the k-k-k-k …
Arthur Fonzarelli, where are you when I really need you?