That saying, “out of the mouths of babes,” rings so true sometimes, doesn’t it?
I had just told Elle, for the umpteenth time in her life, “Just a minute.” I was finishing making dinner, or loading the dishwasher, or folding laundry, or writing an article, or changing her sister’s diaper, or whatever it was that was so pressing I couldn’t set it aside for a minute or two to examine her pink teddy bear who had a splinter in his toe and needed an examination from Dr. Mommy. (Stinky diapers are always pressing matters, of course – almost as pressing as lurking newspaper deadlines. Mountains of laundry or piles of dishes? Not so much.)
This assertion of my daughter to my husband, who had taken the time to play Dr. Daddy, stopped me dead in my tracks, loading the dishwasher.
Jeez. I need to play more, I thought.
I was reminded of this revelation this weekend, walking along a narrow sandy wash nestled between the geologic monoliths of Capitol Reef National Park with a friend.
“You know, I remember it still so clearly,” Gabe said, his voice as gravelly as the bits of rock we crossed. “My son wanted to go fishing. I was up under the car working on something, and I told him I’d take him tomorrow. Well, tomorrow he had plans with his friends. And every other day it didn’t work out either. And I look back on that today and I wonder, what was I thinking? Why didn’t I drop what I was doing and take my son fishing?”
Gabe’s kids are in their 30s now. That son is still crazy about fishing, he says. And he takes Gabe fishing with him, every once in a while.
We get so caught up in the day-to-day – and that’s something I thought I wouldn’t do, especially after nearly losing my daughter into the jaws of death this winter. But there I was, scrubbing away, sure that the sanity of my evening, and my family’s well being, depended upon the burned rice being scraped completely off the bottom of the saucepan.
I was wrong. My ultimate sanity, and the overall wellbeing of my family, depends so much more on the time we spend together, playing, than the time we spend apart (although under the same roof) consumed by the duties we adults so readily assign to ourselves. Duties that feel a lot more like work than like play.
I’m lucky. I still have a little bit more time with my girls before they’ll be asking to play with their friends instead of me. Although I’ll try to avoid it, I’ll probably still look back and wonder, what was I thinking? Why didn’t I drop what I was doing and play with my kids when they asked?
My old buddy Gabe did give me something to aspire towards, however, looking ahead to the days when my kids are grown and I’m, well, more mature.
“You know you’ve succeeded as a parent,” he said, “when your kids invite you to play with them.”