Watching Atlantis with My Kids & Saying Goodbye to Astronaut Dreams
On Friday, I sat in a little cafe with my sons waiting for our lunch as the space shuttle Atlantis prepared for its last trip. I tweeted that we were watching it, which apparently many other moms were tweeting as well.
My older son was amazed and watched the countdown clock like a hawk. When you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer is almost always "a firefighter and a Space Ranger." A man waiting for his food turned to our table, listening to my sons' excitement, and said, "Sad that this is the last one, isn't it?"
There was an audible pause in the chatter from our table. I didn't want to make eye contact with my older son. I just didn't.
He looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, "What?" I blinked. He didn't. He was going to wait for an answer. So, I explained that this was the last US shuttle launch for NASA, that the program was shutting down after 30 years. He just stared at me, willing me to laugh and say, "Just kidding!" He looked back at the TV which was focused in on the shuttle ready to take off. And back at me. I think he gave the man who rained on our little lunch parade a dirty look. I know that I did.
It's not that I don't want to be honest with my kids. But if he says he wants to be a Space Ranger, I want him to believe that he can be. I didn't launch into a lengthy explanation on why the program is ending. And the truth is that he could still be a US astronaut and head into space via Russia's agency. Or the up-and-coming private agencies. Or maybe we'll all be floating around space in our Jetson like cars. I don't know.
But that very nice, very appropriate man took away a little of our innocence on Friday as that clock finally counted down. We counted out loud, of course. How can you not? A teen who was getting his drink from the fountain near our table even joined in; I smiled at him for the little astronaut he probably wanted to be at one time.
As it blasted off, I looked away from the TV and to the faces of my sons. The awe and wonder that passed behind their eyes and through their smiles was something I needed to remember forever. This was one of those last times of parenting that we've heard of, that we don't always know we're experiencing until it's over. Even if private companies do start shuttling big spenders into outer space, my kids won't ever be five and three again with all the wonder of the world in their souls. I took a mental picture, sad for a moment that I didn't bring my camera to capture that moment. But I'll remember the moment forever.
I hope they do too.
I wasn't the only one watching the shuttle launch with their kids.
In fact, Life at the Circus decided to pack up the family, drive for 2 days, both ways, with a 2 minute show in the middle. The pictures and the memories were so worth it.
The countdown began….. from one minute down…. Scott and I looked at each other, “This is it… it’s going to happen…. we were bouncing with excitement” and then they hit 31 seconds and hold. “NO, please NO!”
- A Sense of Wonder
- Lessons Learned from My Obsession with Space
- Farewell to the Space Shuttle
- One Last Time
And don't forget this post we syndicated earlier this year: My Dad Was the Pilot of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Did you watch with your kids? Did they understand that this was the last shuttle launch? Did you also give up your dreams of being an astronaut on Friday?
Photo Credits: Space Shuttle by © Andrew Patron/ZUMAPRESS.com. Buzz Lightyear by Jenna Hatfield.