How Quickly They Grow

The bears are back in my town. It’s our second summer-long arts installation of almost a hundred painted bears. The first one was in 2009, and after the success of that year everyone’s very excited that they’re back.

We spent an hour this afternoon walking around downtown as a family checking out all the bears. We had to drag Older, who didn’t want to go for several reasons: 1. He was playing Minecraft, which he’s obssessed with. 2. He was tired and it was hot. 3. He had homework.

You know he’s desperate not to go somewhere if he’d rather do homework.

Just three short years ago it was a very different story. Older was charging ahead, finding every new bear and screaming when he found one. Younger insisted on posing for a picture with every bear that he “loved,” and in almost every shot he’s actually hugging them, his happy smile pressed up against a paw or belly.

Today, Older whined and fought most of the way. You could feel his embarrassment at seeing boys a year or two older than him, trying to hide behind us because he’s been spotted doing stupid family stuff with his parents.

Younger agreed because he’s still happy to be a kid, and is actually very interested in art. He was critiquing the pieces on a new level, appreciating different styles and noticing details. But there was no hugging, and definitely no pointing and screaming at each new bear sighting.

Three years ago we said finding the bears was like an Easter egg hunt. This year they’re beyond egg hunts. Back then the boys asked me to take them back two more times to walk around and visit the bears. This year we didn’t even see them all, yet they begged to be done. Last time it was juice boxes; today they were getting bottled sodas and brewed ice tea at the coffee shop.

I only recently discovered that my husband plays a similar game to one that I have. When I see a family of four with two sons in their teens, I think, “That will be us in a few years.” Now I do it backwards as well. When I saw families with little ones in strollers I thought, it will be so different before you know it. Go around and visit the bears again, while you still have the chance.

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