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Opinion: As Kids Grow, So Do Their Parents

Scott Simon with his daughters.
Scott Simon with his daughters.

Parents have special eyesight. We watch our children get smarter and taller and stronger, and we dream they may someday dazzle the world. But some part of our eyes and hearts will always see them as infants we once held; children whose small hands once reached up for ours; the charmers who smiled into our faces with the power of sunlight.

My wife and I have recently moved some things around in our apartment. This happens at the same time both our daughters have graduations, one from eighth grade, the other from high school. I think we have taken some kind of picture of them almost every day of their lives.

But this week, we've sorted through some of the dozens of small printed photographs that can almost disappear into a domestic landscape — propped on bookshelves, clipped onto cabinets and perched on tables.

Family photos around Scott Simon's home.
Scott Simon / NPR
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Family photos around Scott Simon's home.

Most of these photos are from the first years of their lives. They show our daughters as babies, wound into layers of sooty clothes and put into our arms in orphanages in China; and as little girls, laughing in the arms of their grandparents — our parents — who are now gone.

Others show our young daughters hugging farm animals; riding the shoulders of aunts, uncles and cousins; laughing, dancing, giggling at ball games and birthday parties; and holding onto beloved pets, also now gone.

We also have more recent photos of our daughters, looking accomplished and poised, and ... so grown-up. And I worried this week if keeping so many photos on display of our daughters when they were little might freeze them that way in our minds. Would the pictures my wife and I find so enchanting somehow keep us from appreciating how our daughters have grown, and will soon grow away from us?

One of Scott Simon's favorite photos of his daughters, Elise and Paulina, taken by his wife, Caroline.
Scott Simon / NPR
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One of Scott Simon's favorite photos of his daughters, Elise and Paulina, taken by his wife, Caroline.

We are already, not so subtly, beginning to change places with our children. I wait for our daughters to reboot my laptop with updates with the same wide-eyed trust I once waited for my mother to buckle my snow boots.

I've discovered from years of being a son, losing parents and now being one, that parents don't really have eyes in the back of our heads. But we do have a special and distinct view of our children. We see them as all ages at once. We look at them through a lens of memories. Whatever they go on to be, we always see through to their beginnings, their fears and dreams and their goodness.

We grow older. Our children grow up. We grow together.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.