by Mike Todd

“Look at this, LOOK AT THIS!” my two sons, Evan and Zack, yelled as they ran down the stairs toward my wife, Kara. Evan waved my phone over his head as the two boys hurtled across the living room. I sat down near the top of the stairs to watch them since they’d taken my phone and with it, my ability to entertain myself.

“It’s a video of Zack reading to me last night!” Evan said as the boys dove onto the couch beside Kara.

At four years old, Zack can’t read, but he never lets his complete inability to do something stop him from doing something. I’d recorded him the night before attempting to teach himself to read “Put Me in the Zoo,” an old Dr. Seussian knockoff about a magical spotted animal that hates his freedom and wants to live in a cage at the zoo.

“Once upon a time, him had lots of spots,” Zack’s voice said in the video, and on the couch, both boys burst into laughter.

Kara smiled and put her arms around the boys. Evan and Zack were laughing and enjoying each other’s company while watching a video of themselves laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Our dog, Memphis, ambled over and curled up at the base of the couch. It was a perfect moment.

I looked down from my perch on the stairs and felt so compelled by reality that I didn’t even miss my phone that much.

“Now his spots are orange, now purple; now they’re all over the place,” Zack’s voice said from the phone, and the boys laughed again.

All of a sudden, I pictured the kids in the distant future, packing up their things and heading off to college. Moments like the one we were experiencing now would be just vague memories and warm feelings, the particulars long forgotten. My eyes began experiencing a strange sensation, whereby they became moist almost to the point of dripping. I would have looked on WebMD to diagnose my condition, but the kids had my phone.

As I thought more about the future emotional trauma that their natural development would wreak, I also realized that when the kids are ready to go to college, they will have been teenagers for many years. Teenagerdom was invented as nature’s way of helping parents kick their kids out of the house.

“Everyone else is going to the concert! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO UNFAIR?” the teenager will yell, stomping into their room and slamming the door, spending the rest of the evening practicing his sighing and eye-rolling.

“Thanks, nature,” the parents will whisper to themselves.

I regained my composure and came back to the moment, concentrating on appreciating every minute we have with the kids while they’re 4 and 7, they still think we’re cool, and all they want to do is hang out with us. Kara glanced up and smiled wistfully, and I wondered if she was thinking the same thing.

“Hey, Zack’s squooshing me,” Evan said, sliding away from him.

“Am not! Hey, now I can’t see!” Zack said.

“Stop it! YOU’RE STILL SQUOOSHING ME!” Evan yelled, flailing his arms around while Zack leaned harder into him.

“CAN’T SEE! CAN’T SEE!” Zack yelled.

“AAAAAHHHH, GET OFF ME!” Evan screamed.

“That’s it. Go to bed, both of you!” Kara said.

“NOOOOOOO!” they yelled in unison. Maybe it’s not so important to appreciate EVERY minute. Some minutes are really annoying.

The moment having passed, I hopped down the stairs to get their bedtime routines started. They needed to get a good night’s sleep, since they’d be going to college pretty much the next day.

Humor columnist Mike Todd has been honored for each of the last two years by the Pennsylvania News Media Association with a Keystone Press Award as one of the top columnists in the state among community newspapers.

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