When the new school year begins next week, I will be the proud parent of two middle-schoolers and a senior in high school. This means that for the first time in twelve years, there will be no Naughtons in SoBoCo’s primary or elementary schools.

Travis Naughton

Of course, I’ll still be subbing at the primary school every chance I get, so it might be more accurate to say there will no longer be any Naughton kids attending our district’s institutions for younger learners.

In other words, my babies aren’t babies anymore.

Wasn’t it just the other day that my son Alex was wearing his little cowboy boots and kicking his friend Keegan in the head at Liberty Lane Daycare? (Adorable, right?) It just doesn’t seem possible that those same two toddlers are now getting ready to start their final year of high school together.

Our youngest child Truman was tiny when Bethany and I adopted him almost a decade ago at age two. He loved trains and watching Sesame Street with his dear old dad, and due to the influence of his cousins Olivia and Morgan, he also loved Hannah Montana as much as steam locomotives. Though he is still diminutive, he is not a little kid anymore. Truman will be twelve in a couple weeks, and he’s already dreaming about owning a Mercedes-Benz luxury SUV and having a career as an event planner to the stars when he grows up.

When Tiana stepped into Brandy Clark’s first grade classroom seven years ago, two weeks after we adopted her, she only spoke Mandarin Chinese and had never even seen the inside of a school building. She impressed everyone with her courage and determination as she quickly adapted to her new life as an American, a Naughton, and a Southern Boone Eagle. Today Tiana is a confident, hard-working, and kind young lady who makes me proud to be her father.

I’m not nearly as emotional about Truman and Tiana being middle-schoolers as I am about Alex graduating in May. He has been my little (and not-so-little) buddy for almost 18 years now. I decided to become a stay-at-home dad when he was a toddler, and he and I had a lot of fun together back then. I also made a lot of mistakes, as a first-time parent, that Alex has either forgotten about or forgiven me for, but despite those myriad missteps, he has turned out to be a genuinely good human being. (His mother probably deserves a little credit for that.)

Alex is a far better big-brother to his younger siblings than I ever was to mine. Bethany and I included him in the decisions to adopt Truman and Tiana, and he has been a tremendous help in raising them both. Those kids would not be the well-adjusted and hilarious young people they are today without Alex’s love and influence.

I can’t imagine what life in this house will be like with Alex away in college next year. I don’t even want to think about it. When I do start to let my mind wander down that path, I remind myself how lucky I am to have one more year with my son before he moves away.

And when I think of our friends Paul and Cathy, whose son Sam (Alex’s best childhood friend) died just before the start of what would have been his senior year, I remind myself how lucky I am to have even one more day with all three of my children.

Two middle-schoolers and a senior. My babies aren’t babies anymore—and that’s okay. No matter how old my kids are, I’m just grateful that I get to be their dad.

As long as the primary school will keep letting me sub, I’ll always have little kids to laugh and learn with. I’m pretty grateful for that, too.