Dirk Knemeyer

Elena 5.6 & Soren 3.35

So often, I step outside of myself and realize: “THIS is the best time of my life.” And my children are such a big reason for that.

My nuclear family, to include my own parents and then my wife and all of my children, are all kind, sweet, thoughtful people. It is a lovely core character, and seeing it emerge and woven into the essence of my young and maturing children fills me with joy, appreciation, pride and humility all at once. Like all people they are not perfect, and can’t be stereotyped into these specific positive things. But, these parts of them are really wonderful.

My relationship with Soren continues to strengthen and improve. To be clear, his mother is still his favourite. But, he is increasingly also seeking me out and showing desire and affinity to connect and spend time with me on a daily basis, and not exclusively in the absence of his mother. He has interesting tastes, particularly as relate to stereotypical gender preferences. He most enjoys construction and trucks and other very “boys” things. That’s his wheelhouse. But then, he asks for Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake by name now and then. He rocks the flower-covered apron and helps his mom bake. He has dressed up in Elena’s princess costumes with absolutely no self-awareness. I am, of course, very careful to not communicate gender reactions to these things and cooly approve and say all is well when his sister objects to some of his choices on a gender or other socially constructed basis. I don’t know what impact his preferences will have on him as an adult but I am quite content to let him find his own way with love, support, and acceptance as opposed to steering him to a more standard and “acceptable” way. I think it is the best gift I can possibly give him.

Soren is very willful, probably the most willful active member of our family now that I have aged and mellowed quite a bit. When he makes up his mind for something he is immovable. In the most extreme cases this forces me to summon a surge of testosterone, forcibly haul him up like a sack of potatoes, and transfer him from his tantrum-in-place up to his bedroom. Of course, when I am not around, these tantrums are rewarded by his sweet mother who enables these act-outs. The hardest part about parenting well is having two parents with a shared definition of “well”, plus both having the will, desire, and ability to enforce that shared “well”. I think Sigrid sees the wisdom of my parenting with Soren (and Elena as well) but her ability to implement it is not equal to the idea. I worry about Soren in this way, as I think he needs a firm and consistent hand.

Soren is the biggest character in our family. Whereas Elena is often superficially like a peacock as she over-coordinates her clothes and opts for costume, jewelry, and other things that don’t align with anything Sigrid or I do, she is otherwise generally demure. Sigrid is quiet and elegant and similarly demure. I turn the personality on when the situation calls for it but otherwise default to being quiet and considerate. Soren, on the other hand, is a whirlwind. Extraverted, forceful, and engaging, he imposes himself on situations. As I’ve mentioned before he has a devious sense of humour and is the only mischievous member of our little tribe. He just really is strong and with a large essence. It will be interesting to see how this all evolves as he ages. Now, he does still parrot quite a bit of what Elena does and says when they are around each other. But, outside of that little big-sister-little-brother hierarchy and dynamic, he is large.

As for Elena? She is becoming a lot more independent. She will now, often, go off on her own to play. Much of it is imagination play around her dolls, stuffed animals, and art. This extends to her time with me, where she interacts with me much more like an adult would than how she used to. What I mean by that is, while she and I remain like intimate super besties when we are together the time she spends with me is intentionally given, started, and stopped. So, whereas before during my time with the kids at night we would be together the whole time, now she is more likely to play or do things on her own for part of that time before then coming to me and bringing her whole self to it. But, then, she will also consciously end that time to pursue something else she is interested in or thinking about. I’ve become somewhat compartmentalized as opposed to just “DADDY!!!” It doesn’t change the nature of our time together; it just makes the time less, and more time that she is opting into or out of as opposed to assumed and constant. I suspect this is a normal stage of maturity, and healthy for her. But even as I look at it with curiosity and interest it makes me just a little bit sad. It is the way of the world though, isn’t it?

I think what I like best about Elena is how considerate she is. She gives so much, to me most of all but also to Sigrid, to her teachers, classmates, everyone. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with how picky she is and how relentlessly she complains about everything, never ever satisfied but always seeing the curls of green on the edges as opposed all of the positives that make up the fat meat of the middle. I think that came from me, and I apologize to her for it.

We’re going to lose the children in different ways over the years. They will continue to assert independence and break free of the nest. Presumably for some duration of their teenage years they will be largely lost entirely – at least for a time. And now, as I sadly watch my older sons in college making almost no effort to connect with me despite my ongoing and earnest efforts, I must acknowledge the possibility that my younger children, too, are off going their own way well into their 20’s. So can I expect, before I reach 50 years of age, that I lose them until I am in my 60s? My father died at 67; his father at 70; going back through our paternal line all of the men were dead by 70. Once these children fly away might they only come back to me at the end of my life? I tear up just thinking about it.

This is, without question, the best time of my life. I am so appreciative for, truly and deeply, my little family here. The love and closeness with these children, watching them slowly develop and evolve. The sacrifices of Sigrid to accommodate my needs and peculiarities. The relationships with the children changing; their growing and evolving. I’m blessed and thankful for all of it, and am moved by the reality that the good times with the children likely will end for what could be a long time as a natural part of their growing into adults of their own. I hope someday they are able to remember and manifestly feel the deep, profound, enthusiastic love and joy I have for and about them. I hope, in their own lives, they have children with whom they can feel and share similar things. And I particularly hope that the wisdom and temperance that I have developed around relationships and people is passed on to them so they can exercise some of the good things that I am able to offer for the good of themselves, their children, and their world writ large.

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