It’s spring and the school year is almost finished here in Michigan. For those parents with high school seniors, it’s prom and graduation time. For those with kindergarteners, fifth graders or eighth graders, it’s a time to move on to the next big level – first grade, middle school or high school. Then there are the end of the year concerts, recitals and tournaments for spring sports. It’s both the end and a beginning, a time to reflect and wonder.
Just last week, my friend Shari wrote this on her Facebook page:
‘We have this big, old swing set in our backyard where my kids used to play all summer long. When I’d stand at my kitchen window and yell for them to come inside, they’d always ask for “just one last time” to jump off the swings or go down the slide. So yesterday I realized the three of them haven’t been on that swing set in the longest time, and no doubt never will again. And I… just wish so badly that I would have known the last time I called them in WAS the last time. I wish somebody would’ve whispered in my ear.. pay attention, you’ll never see this again. This truly is their “one last time.” We know when the big milestones are coming.. graduations, off to college etc… but it’s all those other last times that slip right by without our noticing that make me sad.’
I know what Shari means (and, by the by, I know for a fact that Shari is a wonderful mother and probably paid better attention to her kids than she thinks). You’re busy raising your kids, and, sometimes, things are not terribly exciting. Actually, there are many, many non-exciting, non-eventful days in all of our lives. Weeks might go by between holidays, birthdays or other milestone days and they’re seemingly same ol’, same ol’. That’s when the best moments happen and you might not even realize it. We never really know when some phase is ending and you’ll never see it again (and, yes, you might even miss sleep deprivation and diapers at some weak moment in the future).
When I think of the happiest moments of our family, there are not too many holidays that stick out as being ‘the best day ever’. Come to think of it, there were some pretty stressful summer vacations moments as well. No, the best times that I can remember were very subtle, almost so subtle that I’m glad that I was paying attention, otherwise I would have missed them.
I had an incident with Youngest Son’s teacher conference that made me realize that sometimes all young children need is the present of your presence. They don’t need expensive parties, lavish vacations or anything more than just your attention. (Disclaimer: This is not especially true of teenagers. Please do not leave nasty comments on my blog about your 16-year-old and how I don’t know what I’m talking about because honestly I do).
There was a very good blog that I read called “Don’t Carpe Diem” by Glennon Melton. She said that the ‘Carpe Diem Thing’ (aka the hyperactive, salivating ‘Seize the Day’!) mantra didn’t work for her. It was just too much pressure. I get what she was saying too – what if you look back and every moment wasn’t Currier and Ives portrait perfect? Did you fail as a parent?
Her suggestion was to cherish the Kairos times in our lives. She describes Kairos as God’s time, that which is metaphysical and magical and seems to stand still. What a beautiful analogy.
I’m not telling you in that loud, caffeine crazed ‘Parenting Magazine’ manner that you are GOING TO LOVE EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR CHILD’S LIFE. I’m not saying that I enjoyed every Christmas, Halloween, or vacation. I’m not even going to tell you that parenting is a rockin’ good time and I never cried tears of frustration. That would be a lie. I too do not want to cause more stress to young parents.
I will tell you that Youngest Son wore a pig nose headband that he made in storytime at the library for three days straight, until it fell apart. This was during one very dull week in February many years back. I still get a little choked up when I think about that cute face wearing a pig’s nose during nap time. There was nothing about the incident that yelled, Carpe Diem! or WOW – did you see that? It was just a really sweet moment in his life and I’m glad that I still remember it.
I’m just quietly whispering in your ear, “Pay attention”. Enjoy small moments of grace along with the big events. You’ll be happy that you did.