03/12/2013 05:07 pm ET Updated May 12, 2013

The End of Innocence

"It's not that I want back all my innocence, just the joy of losing it again" - Dawes, "Strangers Getting Stranger"

An entire generation -- maybe our whole nation even -- lost its innocence at the hands of the Manson Family murders and the Kent State shootings. Years later, baseball's purity was stripped away by beefed up meat-heads who made a mockery of our pastime's dusty record books.

The precise moment my own innocence was lost is a mystery. To which it is doomed to stay for as much as I reflect back on my youth I simply cannot -- will not? -- process the required innocence-losing memories. A deep dive with the assistance of a well-paid psychologist is out of the question. Forever gone.

Fortunately, having children has brought back, if not the exact feeling, a close approximation of that zest for innocent thoughts and capacity for imaginative dreams. Thanks to my own two daughters, I too can imagine wishfully that Santa Claus will, once a year, slide down our chimney, and that Egypt is no more complicated than a square inch on our globe -- just an over-sized sandbox dotted with ancient pyramid building blocks at the disposal of gigantic mummy babies.

With children around, your own world gets a little more complicated, but the very complex world outside can be made fanciful and mysterious again. This is one of the precious gifts they give us. All we need to do is accept it and run wildly with it before the clock strikes midnight.


Even while sprinting alongside my girls in their quest to save worms from hot blacktop and hearing them fantasize about becoming ballerina-doctor-singer-teacher-mothers, I remain horrified at the thought of the eventual loss of their innocence. It's not sex -- that's a doozy for sure, but I've still got some time to carve out adequate space for that when compartmentalizing my fatherly fears. No, I dread the fast-approaching day when my oldest daughter, now age nine, looks out onto a field or into a forest and fails to see fairies and giant-sized butterflies. And I worry about the time when she and her little sister no longer giggle at my attempts to convince them that there are indeed purple and orange polka-dotted monkeys throwing eggs and bacon onto passing cars causing traffic jams on the Schuylkill Expressway leaving Philadelphia. I mean, why else is that stretch of highway always backed up?

More than anything, though, it frightens me to think about the moment when both of my girls blossom into adults, leaving behind boxes of toys and cedar chests full of memories of a time when they fretted about nothing more than tracking mud into the house and making it to the bathroom in time; no bills, boys, stalled cars, or broken hearts. I'm scared that when they stop wanting to play, it'll mean I have to stop too. And then all that's left is the adult stuff, for all of us.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.