Spring is a complex thing. Part of a natural process, one-fourth of nature’s annual cycle…A time for children to leave the indoors and rediscover the outdoors, as long as we their parents let them…A theme in art and literature…A time for children to abandon their digital screens and dig in the dirt, as long as we let them outdoors…An image of renewal…A time for children to….Well, there’s a theme there, as long as we let there be one.

Children — along with bluebirds and other wild creatures — need to find themselves in the leaves, trees, and wilderness of the outdoors, no matter what it looks like: lawns, parks, pavement, streets (safe ones), and any area where sky can be glimpsed. Is there stranger danger? Yes,but it’s roughly equivalent to the chances your child will be struck by lightning, though we feel it is more like 50-50, given the media.

Spring can remind your children — and yourself — that renewal is ongoing, that it is safe to be alive, that despite the risks of being alive, it is far more amazing to run and jump and laugh than it is to hunker down inside — and inside of yourself — and be afraid.

Triplets, Cat, and True Love

We have triplet children and dual cats — three nineteen-year-old college freshmen who adore the pair of ten-year-old cats my wife and I tend to at home. It’s amazing how close and how complex are the many relationships exist between and among those five “creatures”: the love, warmth, and silliness that have gone on for years are so much a part of the family that with the kids away at college, the cats have grown to feel like two more “children.”

The pair of felines also help our three human children seem closer to home. They sit in our laps, cry for attention, need to be fed, and often follow us around the house — all actions reminiscent of our children’s childhood behavior, behaviors that as a father I truly miss. (Certainly toilet training for the cats was a lot easier!) But in the end, cats do not write letters (our kids do!), phone home, or wrap their arms around us after the exchange of Christmas presents and tell us they love us.

Cats’ reputation as aloof and distant hardly fits our own two felines. When our children come home for spring break, our cats will be found curled around their necks, perched on their laps like blankets, or trailing them from room to room — just as they do with my wife and me now. It’s nice, frankly, because I miss the toddler stage when one or more of our “babies” curled around my legs, or fell asleep on my shoulder, or slid down a slide into my arms. If I ever had to choose, between our two cats and our three children — I do think I would decide on our three amazing children.