Last spring C’s school had a magician come in as part of a kindness/character ed. program. There was a show for the kids during the school day, and then an evening performance for families. Now I hadn’t planned on going, lots of other things already on the schedule, but when I got home from school, there was C with the note in his hand and a grin on his face. So, with a bit of shuffling to get S to and from basketball practice, C and I were off to see the magician. It was really great until the guy ended with Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle. During the song, C leaned over and hugged me tight. I didn’t think much of it because he’s always been a hugger, but when it was over he took off. When I caught up with him, his best friend was walking away, and C looked sad. Of course my first thought was that his buddy had said something that hurt his feelings. Nope, it was the song. It made him, and I quote, “think about all the things you do instead of spend time with me.” We went through all the one on one time we’d had in the past week, but “it’s just never enough, Mom!” I listed the things we do for him and the things we buy for him, and he replied, “Spending money on me isn’t the same thing as spending time with me.” So, a few weeks ago when he asked to join me on my nightly walks with the dog, I said yes even though I really valued that alone time.
When we registered for school earlier this month, S said, “Do you realize in three years I’ll be starting high school?” Yes, I realize that, but I look at her and still see the three year-old in a Cinderella costume jumping on the trampoline, swinging on the swing, and giving her new baby brother a bath.
Earlier today I was emailing back and forth with a former student; a young man I had the privilege of teaching as a third grader and a fifth grader. I wished him luck as his school year begins on Monday. He was a third grader my first year teaching, and he is starting his ninth year as a teacher and coach. Funny how I still see him as the nine-year old who was perceptive enough to point out that I wore the same dress every Wednesday.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m starting my 25th year as an educator or my impending 25th college reunion, but I have become very aware that time is fleeting, and I’m reminded of this Jim Trelease quote: “The problem is not time. With few exceptions, it is simply a matter of priorities. Most find time to put in a full workday, take a full complement of coffee breaks, eat lunch, dinner, read the newspaper, watch the nightly newscasts, or ball teams, do the dishes, talk on the phone for thirty minutes (mostly about nothing), run to the store for a pack of cigarettes or a lottery ticket, drive to the mall, and never miss that favorite prime time show. Somehow they find time for those things-important or unimportant as they are-but can’t find time to read to a child. You don’t have to be an astrologer to predict certain parts of the future. In twenty years, the ball teams will still be winning or losing, you’ll have twice, even three times as many malls to shop in, your favorite soaps will be rerunning on one of 150 different channels, and the dishes and dust balls will still be waiting. But your little boy or little girl will not. They’ll be all grown up, with lives of their own. You get only one shot at it. In the long run, the only thing of lasting value you can give a child is your time and the memories of the time you shared together.”
As a new school year starts, and the schedule gets full, I plan to keep this last line in the forefront of my thoughts. After all, in three years S will be starting high school, and she’s already starting to spread her wings. And yes, C still likes to sit on my lap and talk my ear off when we walk, but for how much longer? I want to be fully present for all of it because Trelease is right. In the long run, there really is only one thing of lasting value.