‘They grow up so fast’

Tales from the front pew

I’d forgotten how much fun (and exhausting) it was having a 7-year-old boy around the house.

It’s been 19 years since my son Buddy was that age, and my grandson Blaine has about three more years to go. The 7-year-old I’m referring to is my niece Caitlyn’s son Dawson.

Caitlyn lives about three hours away from us, so she and Dawson spend an occasional weekend at our house; arriving Friday evening and leaving after church on Sunday.

Our family has been doubly-blessed by this because, first, it’s nice to get together with family, and, second, Caitlyn has a beautiful voice, so her Uncle Bob always recruits her for special music in our church.

Dawson has boundless energy, seemingly in perpetual motion from the time he wakes in the morning to bedtime. He’s also at that sadly short-lived stage of being extremely affectionate, hugging “hello,” “goodbye” and “just because you walked into the room.”

While he tends to be on the small side for seven, Dawson’s hugs are packed with enthusiasm. In other words, once you’ve been on the receiving end of one, you know you’ve been hugged. You might also want to know the name of a good chiropractor.

Like most 7-year-olds, Dawson has a healthy imagination, regularly attributing real-life traits to inanimate objects. For example, after church the other week he got to take home a bunch of balloons from a Mother’s Day banquet held the previous evening. Dawson sorted through them, labeling a father balloon, mother balloon, several kid balloons and a menagerie of pet balloons. Once each had a position, he proclaimed, “Meet the Bouncy family, everyone! All they do is bounce through life.”

Dawson also has a way with words.

After church, we went to one of our favorite restaurants, and upon being escorted to our seat, Dawson looked up at the server and said, “Thank you, my good man. This table will do splendidly.”

Hearing these old-fashioned words emanating from a little fellow dressed in his Sunday best — bow-tie included — brought smiles to the faces of several folks at surrounding tables.

After lunch, Caitlyn and Dawson prepared to head home, but before they reached their car, I pulled my niece aside. “You know you’ve got a great kid there, right?” I asked, fully aware that she did.

“Yep, Aunt Kimmy, I do.” She smiled. “Sometimes all his energy wears me out, though.”

Standing there, I wanted to say so many things.

I wanted to tell her to enjoy every moment of that excitement and those hugs, because before she knows it they’ll be replaced by adolescent angst and moodiness.

I wanted to tell her to live her life in an exemplary manner, because he’ll grow up remembering what she “did” more than what she “said.”

I wanted to tell her to relish being the center of his life, because all too soon, something or someone else will hold that place.

Yep, I wanted to tell Caitlyn those things, but I settled for hugging her and saying what my mom told me 19 years ago: “Enjoy him, sweetie. They grow up so fast.”