how can you miss what you never had?

How can you miss what you never had? I’ll tell you how. It’s deep in your DNA. It was there when you fell in love with the little kids you babysat when you were just a kid yourself and you thought, if I can love these kids this much, what about my own?

It’s in the way you see a friend hug his daughter and how she looks up at him with deep affection and fondness—your own child having never done so before—the low sun glowing off of her bright face. It’s in the way they recede, arm in arm, and how their long shadows form—bittersweet—into one.

It's in the way a mother sits her toddler on the kitchen counter and walks away. When, in that same moment, you instinctively, reflexively, imperceptibly stop yourself from lunging to catch a child who isn't falling—who won't fall—like you've had to do with you own child a thousand times before.

It’s in the way you see a man ride by on his bike explaining something to his son who is riding his own bike, the boy's stern face concentrating on his father’s words and on the road ahead. And you know some day that boy will be an independent man and likely a father to his own son, while yours will not.

It's in the way two kids not much older than your own child skip by on their way to the corner shop for treats. Total independence, you think, as you clutch your child's hand so he doesn't fall to the hard ground.

How can you miss what you never had? It's in knowing your child will never swim like a fish with you, sit next to you at a campfire and talk, read the books you read, appreciate the art you love, sit in the driver's seat next to you, have his first beer with you, travel with you, write to you, argue with you, confide in you.

It's in the meeting of the grandparents of other kids who dote on them in ways you'll never in a million years have the chance to do.

It's in the way you see a child pluck a dandelion and make a wish while blowing the soft, white, seedy down into the breeze. It's in the way you see a kid kick a ball to a friend, the way you see a child pump high on a swing, speak in sentences, catch a butterfly, zing by on a scooter, pick wild berries, run in a field.

It's in your DNA—how you miss what you never had—and in the knowing, because of that, that you'll never get it back, even though it's something you never really had but in your dreams.

photo by Michael Kolster


  1. beautifully, painfully accurate.

  2. Sometimes it hits much harder than others. Like a heavy cloud, obscuring the sun.