By RALPH HARDIN
Evening Times Editor Y eah, I’m getting old…
My daughter, the only kid we have left at home, is turning 17 years old today. That’s just crazy. This fall, she will start her senior year at the Academies of West Memphis and that will be it for us as parents with kids living at home.
I mean, I guess that’s the goal, right? To have the kids, raise them up and send them out into the world. Still, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago when we had our whole crew under one roof …
Oh, wait! It wasn’t that long ago! It was 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down and when my kids heard “shelter in place” they decided the “place” would be our house.
And yes, as crazy as that time was (we had to figure out the logistics of not one but two weddings in the summer of 2020) it was pretty cool to have everyone home. Sure, they ate all my food and I don’t even want to talk about the constant flow of dirty dishes and laundry and for the love of God won’t someone just take the trash out already, but it was a cool sort of last hurrah before everyone sort of went into Adult Mode and got on with the busy-ness of life.
But yep, baby girl is 17 now. Fun fact: My wife was only 17 when we got married in February of 1993, so that’s pretty crazy to think my daughter is that age now. Of course, a little over a year later, in April 1994, we became parents for the first time and that’s basically what we’ve been doing ever since.
There are all different kinds of ways to be a parent and have a family. My wife and I, without really even thinking about it (and Happy Mother’s Day to her and to all you Moms out there) decided to be a very kid-focused family. I mean, why have all these children if you’re not going to put in the effort of raising them, right? Practically all of our vacations were family trips. We made every effort to make sure they got to do the things they wanted, be it sports, church trips, band and choir, music lessons, pitching lessons, etc.
I tend to rattle on about my kids and our adventures sometimes. Once, after recalling some little episode with one of my kids, an older lady who never had children quipped to me, “You know, I’ll say this: You certainly seem to have enjoyed your children.”
I think she meant it as sort of a backhanded compliment, but it is 100 percent true. I can’t even imagine what the past 29 years would have been like without my kids. It might have been quieter and a whole lot cheaper but it certainly would have been less fun.
So, what are we going to do with this last one at home for one more year? She’s certainly keeping us busy because she’s keeping herself busy and she always wants us to come to “the thing” – whatever the latest thing is. If I had a nickel for every “thing” of hers I’ve been to over the course of her life I’d have – well, not that much because most of those “things” charge for admission, and they charge way more than a nickel, but you get what I’m saying.
Softball, volleyball, basketball, band, choir, talent shows, science fairs, church camp, online college classes, parent meetings for the fundraiser for the next thing. You’d think she was busy enough, but now she’s involved with a local teen civic group called Young Life. Oh, and she made Drum Major in the Blue Devil Marching Band… Oh, and why not add another sport? She made the West Memphis tennis team, so I guess we’ll be going to the tennis matches this summer.
Oh, and then there’s her plants. There are succulents and sprouts and green viney creeping things in every window sill in our house. And she’s got a vegetable garden in the backyard (which is, I guess, at least a little less for me to have to mow). And she’s got three aquariums and several terrariums… oh, and a couple of hermit crabs. I’m pushing 50 now, but even at 17, I don’t think I’d have the energy to pull all of that off. She says she wants a job, but I don’t know when she would work.
I’m definitely not complaining (although I could, a little, about how much of a mess her room always is… from all the little projects she has going on in various stages of completion at all times). She’s going to be in 12th grade next year and we’ve just scheduled her first tour of a college campus (the University of Central Arkansas in case you were wondering). She made a 33 on the ACT, so she’s getting a lot of invites. She can’t figure out what she wants to do with her life, bouncing back and forth between physical therapy, music teacher, joining the Marines and being a “homesteader” (whatever that is).
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Bittley-Boo!