Fading Childhood


Ashley was helping Max cast while fishing this weekend. As she went to cast, Max leaned forward. Instinctively, she released the fishing pole to catch him. The pole was flung into the water. I watched with dismay as his Lightning McQueen fishing pole slowly faded into the murky water. I briefly considered diving in after it, but noticed the line was still in the boat. I yelled for Ashley to hand me the line. As I started to pull in the line, I immediately realized I was simply pulling the line out of the reel; the catch mechanism had not been triggered and I was unspooling the line. I started to get anxious. Max started to cry. As Ashley consoled him, I carefully pulled the line up. I hoped the line was tied-off correctly and would not simply come completely unwound, leaving the pole to continue its descent. Finally, I could see the pole at the top of the water. I kept pulling, but could not get it to come up high enough out of the water to grab it from the boat. Panic was setting in. I knew the end of the line was coming. Thankfully, enough of the pole breached the surface and I was able to rescue the fishing pole from meeting a cold, wet resting place.

I have been reflecting on why I found this event to be so traumatic. I, of course, do not want Max to be disappointed or to lose something that he loves. However, I think it is a bit deeper than that. I felt as though I was watching Max’s childhood fade from me; slowly receding from view and reach and I was devastated. Over the last few months, as Max phases out things that he has outgrown, I have become quite sad. He is growing up. He is growing up fast. I am not ready for this.

We had originally planned a trip to Disneyland for Max’s fall break. I wanted Max to experience Cars Land. Cars was one of Max’s favorite movies. He adored those characters. We specifically chose to stay at Art of Animation for our Disney World trips so that he could stay in Radiator Springs (part of the resort is Cars themed). I realized that Max would be outgrowing Cars soon. I knew this October was possibly our last shot of him getting the most out of it. It was not long into the pandemic before I realized that our trip to Disneyland was increasingly unlikely; as we approach October, it is a certainty.

I become a little emotional when I think about the things that Max is missing out on. That emotion largely turns into anger given enough time. It feels like his childhood is slipping away from me. Even though I flail and grab at what is left, it feels as though it slips away even faster. I am not sure I am ready for him to outgrow Cars. I realize that Cars is a placeholder here. I am just not ready for him to move into that next stage. We have not watched Cars in months, possibly over a year at this point. I think we missed our window.