Multiple times a day, the sirens go off, and Jaden’s little band of mismatched fire and police trucks head out to save someone. Across the couch, over the rug, into danger. I think it’s fair to say he’s obsessed with firefighters and his daydreams keep the imaginary citizens of the floor in some peril, but ultimately rescued, administered some oxygen, and sent on their way. A recent Cub Scout tour of a firetruck (photo, above) did nothing to calm his reverence for those saving heroes.

Shayla has an opposite approach, perhaps with similar results. Posing as a middle schooler who could not care about anything if you paid her, no idiotic adult deed will surprise her. If that look could speak, it might say “of all the stupid hypocritical things I’ve seen in this life, this one is right up there… but also typical.” Which, I think, means “you can’t hurt me, no matter what you do.”

That we hurt each other in this life is pretty clear. The kids early life was a dramatic instance; their mother loved them and really tried to make it work, but she could not and did not always keep them safe.

The last 7 years have been more routine, less dangerous, but its still clear to me that as kids need basically everything from us, we’re certain not be up to all of it. We fail them over and over again, with our only hope that we say we’re sorry, and try to make it right. Keeping the show going in relative safety and predictability offers, I hope, a stable base on which they can build their lives. But our disappointments and failures are inevitable. I am too focused on achievement and recognition and grades, too easily overwhelmed by disorder and surprise. I don’t go with the moment and do not cultivate joy as frequently as I wish I did. I think we should play board games but probably don’t actually much like board games.

I think we’re to the point where we have fairly normal issues, the “full catastrophe” of family life that scars everyone. But I worry my kids are extra focused on staying safe or avoiding harm, covering it up, hyper aware of life’s dangers. For where they’ve been I guess that makes sense.

And both kids coping mechanisms – the hero and the cynic – give them a way to finagle a bit of independence, which is one thing they are sure to need. In a few short years we ask children to go from 100% dependence to off to college. So there’s a lot of ground to cover.

But I find myself wishing things could stay simple just a little longer, that they don’t have to get all snarky and grown up right this second. But sometimes, I fear, they do.