“They grow up so fast.” Does that cliché drive you crazy? It does me. I hate it. I feel somehow responsible for wanting to prove the warning label wrong. “Well, YOUR child may have grown up fast, but my child will stay little longer!” We don’t want to believe it to be true. This statement is often made in lament and is often heard in denial. So we fight it, resist it and somehow try to control it.
We run as fast as any family does these days…which is pretty fast. I look at pictures of my children on my wall, ages 3 months, three, and four, and I wonder where those little people have gone. They were just here moments ago with preschool toys and Elmo. Today they are 6, 9 and 11. Today Star Wars, One Direction and the Disney Channel are the thing. We have busy lives of sports, school, music and friends. Everything requires time.
Read for fifteen minutes,
practice for 20,
brush teeth for three,
do flash cards for ten,
wash hands for one,
play outside for sixty,
read the Bible,
spend quality time,
turn off the TV.
Holy cow that’s a lot of pressure on time.
I love how Anna Quindlen puts it: But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.
“Treasure the doing a little bit more and the getting it done a little less.” I love that. It’s not about what’s next on the calendar it’s about living the calendar. “Live tomorrow’s life today,” the hymn sings. We decided to get a puppy this week and yes I feel somewhat crazy for doing it. Like we have TIME for one more thing!
But that’s what parenting does. It throws all logic to the wind and it says, “Live! Live today!” Live each day not to get through it, but with the intention of knowing they were full joy and adventure. It will be messy, poopy, silly, exhausting, exhilarating and painful. It’s life, and its meant to be lived.
A wonderful man in our congregation is dying. He and his wife have been married for 65 years. They have two girls and a boy, just as we do. As we sat on her sofa, while her darling husband drifted off to sleep in the next room she shared her family photos with me and told stories of raising their children. There she was putting on shoes. There she was reading a book. There he was, holding up a trout on a summer vacation. There she was standing at the door, wishing them well as they set off for the day.
“You see,” she said, “it’s really been a wonderful life.”
“Yes,” I said. “It is.”