Eight Minutes and Eternity

by | Jun. 05, 2007

Parenting

This time it was Tanner, my youngest, who was the unhappy child needing a ride home from school, his anxiety elevated by the fact that only a few others waited by him on the curb watching for their overdue drivers.

"What took you so long?" he asked as he climbed into the car. He wasn't angry, just wondering where I'd been.

"I came right from work, like always," I cheerfully replied, trying to keep things pleasant. A quick glance at the clock on my dashboard told me I was just moments behind the usual pick-up schedule.

"We've been here a half hour," said his best friend, as he and his little sister piled into the back for a ride home. They were surprised when I consented that, while I was a smidgen late, the dismissal bell rang a mere eight minutes before my arrival. To me it was a few moments--to them it was an eternity.

Remember when we were one of them and carefree childhood days stretched on ahead and seemed to last and last? Time ticked slowly while waiting for special events like Christmas and birthdays that wouldn't come fast enough. Anticipating significant milestones seemed to take forever.

Now there is no waiting for important days, rather one season gives way to the next and before I can breathe we're celebrating another new year. Apparently there are others who feel the same way because I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "I was put on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. I am so far behind now, I may never die." Time flies, as they say, and I find like the bumper sticker suggests, that it slips like sand through my fingers and I don't get nearly enough done.

My mother and others often advised me, when I was overwhelmed by an endless stream of dirty diapers and runny noses, to enjoy my little ones because they would grow up too fast. I know I thought then that time marched on at the same regular intervals it had always done from the beginning of, well, time. I realize now it's not true. Somewhere along the way, my perspective changed.

There is wisdom in not wishing away stages or phases. And while it is a pursuit not easily accomplished, there is nothing more important than spending time with people we love, snatching and holding fast to all those breathtaking moments for which there seems to be less and less time. The spare moments might come in snatches--a minute here, a minute there, but that's okay, as long as we recognize them.

My son and his friends felt cheated out of even the few extra minutes they spent waiting for their delinquent driver. Children have a knack for squeezing the life out of every second, evidence that in their approach to life, they often understand much more than we give them credit. What would be so wrong with an occasional carefree romp through a field of wildflowers or playing a game of hide and seek with reckless abandon? Of course, as grown-ups, we have grown-up things to accomplish, but now and then it might be nice to see and share the way children do.

In our pressure packed world, what takes eight minutes or less? How about a kiss, a snuggle, a bedtime story, or countless other simple things our children enjoy on a regular basis and never feel guilty about including in a day? When it comes to taking advantage of all those here-and-then-they're gone moments, Tanner and his friends were right--eight minutes is an eternity.

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