Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Gift of Time #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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Slice of Life: The Gift of Time #SOL19 #TWTBlog

Please.

Really.

You said it’s MY day.  You said anything I want.

I flash my baby blues. I know it works on my dad every time. 

He takes a deep breath, looks at his watch, and finally gives in.

Ok. But we only have two hours before lunch are you sure this is what you want to do?  We could go shopping or to a museum.

His tone makes it clear that he really hopes I change my mind.

Yup! I want to ice skate.

By the time we wait in line we might only have thirty minutes to skate.

That’s ok.

He continues pointing out the flaws in my plan as I grab his hand and pull him toward the line waiting for the turn to ice skate.  I know I need to keep his body moving forward as his mind is pulling me backwards. I don’t care if it is five minutes.  The second I hit the ice and look up at that tree, that enormous Christmas tree, and all the buildings around me it will be worth it.

This small moment came flashing back to me yesterday when I bumped into Rockefeller Center during a walk.  It is amazing how memories come flashing back when you haven’t been somewhere in a long time.  My father had a tradition of spending a few days in the city with me throughout the year.  It was always just the two of us.  We might see a play, go to a museum, a concert or a sporting event.  The tickets he bought were probably meant to be the present, but the day together was always what mattered to me.

I am the baby of our family and it was difficult to get time with just my dad.  Most days he was home from work after I ate dinner and gone before I was up in the morning. Weekends were filled with errands, cooking and often my siblings’ activities since they were older.  I did not get a lot of personal time with my dad and I craved it.  In my eyes, he was larger than life. He had a big personality and one that demanded respect. 

My father adored me and was also always trying to figure me out.  I was different.  I wore my heart on my sleeve and marched to the beat of a different drummer in my household.  I saw the world through rose-colored glasses and he continually tried to protect me by pointing out that things may not always have a happily ever after.  He always let me know he loved this part of me – my optimism, my love of life, my insistence on seeing the best in everyone and everything – and at the same time tried to ground me in the realities of life.  While he did not always get me, he let me know he respected me.  I know there was not one ounce of my dad that wanted to go skating at Rockefeller Center, but he wanted to connect with me.  I know he wanted to say I told you so when we only had twenty minutes to skate, but he modeled making the best out of a situation. I remember these days with my dad – the conversations, the laughs, and the silly things we did together – the most vividly in my childhood.  These weren’t big extravagant days. New York was an hour train ride away.  It was the time he spent that mattered to me.

I worry that kids are so tightly scheduled today at home and at school that we miss these small opportunities to connect with them.  I notice that kids are craving to have someone listen to them. Really listen, not listening while sending nonverbal hurry up signals.  Last month my husband and I were waiting for our table reservation in a restaurant.  We were playing cards to pass the time.  Next thing we knew six kids migrated from their respective tables to us.  They wanted to talk. They wanted to play.  We listened and enjoyed their company. It took some time for these various groups of parents to realize what happened.  They came to us and apologized. No worries, we were happy to have them.  They just wanted to talk as they watched us play cards. We watched them rejoin their tables and each was handed a device.

The gift of time is priceless. I believe our young friends want this gift.  I hear them asking for it at school, at the grocery store, at the park, on the soccer field, and at restaurants.  Yet, I see them on devices at school, at the grocery store, at the park, on the soccer field, and at restaurants.  We cannot fool ourselves to believe these devices are engaging them.  They are compliant, quiet, and kept busy, not engaged.  I know we are all trying to balance so many things.  I know it is easier when they are entertained and well behaved.  I also know what it meant to me when my dad took the time to be with me. To wait in line with me and listen to me the entire time. This is what I remember. What do you remember about your childhood?  Who gave you the gift of time? How can we make sure the kids in our lives are getting this gift as well?

Clare

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

11 Comments
  • Avatar
    Julie K
    Posted at 10:21h, 17 March Reply

    Grateful to have read your post. It brought back a memory from my childhood with my dad, and I am grateful your writing nudged it forward. Another inspiration from your post is bringing playing cards to pass the time while waiting at a restaurant. I am going to try it out. Thanks for your inspiring post,

  • Avatar
    Lanny Ball
    Posted at 10:35h, 17 March Reply

    This is beautiful, Clare. The way you gently bring us into the story with dialogue, letting us, the readers, finally figure out what was happening. But then also, your reflect on the gift of time and how these moments with your father represent something important that may be missing in today’s fast-paced, device-dominated culture. You’ve definitely inspired my slice for tomorrow, as I plan to tell a different story from the father’s point of view… thank you!

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 10:36h, 17 March Reply

    Wow– there’s a lot to comment on in this post, Clare. Your dad’s tradition was a powerful one, as there aren’t many who so intentionally set up time like that. Schedules are moral documents, right? We make time for what matters. The way our memory works– all of a sudden something happens and we have the best story come rushing back to us– love that! And then the connection to compliance and engagement, devices and card games. I think we have to keep sharing posts like this one, but also think about more because it’s not the people who need to read it who do. I’d be happy to talk about it.

  • Avatar
    Jaana
    Posted at 10:45h, 17 March Reply

    What a wonderful memory! The gift of time, that really is priceless. I am learning to slow down when visiting my friend at assisted living. We chat, play cards, talk and at times check Facebook or email, but mainly we chat. Thanks for a great post!

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:52h, 17 March Reply

    The gift of time as you describe it with your dad in this beautiful post, is the best gift there is. I, too, worry about dependence on devices , ours and our kids. Being present, having a chat, listening, enrich us all. Thanks for this post today, Clare.

  • Avatar
    Cathy
    Posted at 11:28h, 17 March Reply

    I enjoyed walking alongside you and your dad in the city as you waited to skate. Your post is a reminder that the long drives, endless lines, and unstructured hours hold their own magic when we are with family and friends. As is your gift, you’ve taken a beautiful memory and helped to weave an important lesson for us all to remember.

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 11:38h, 17 March Reply

    Clare, this is such a sweet post – and so important. The time in NYC and the choice to go ice-skating. I love how you knew your dad didn’t always get you, but he let you know that he respected you. I love your optimism and how you seem to breathe more life into every day. When I am around you, I can feel some of that positive energy. What a great gift you have! And talking about gifts – yes, the gift of time is one of the most precious gifts we can give to our loved ones.

    I immediately thought of Saturdays on Wadsworth Avenue with my mom and sisters, especially our time at the library. Mom gave us those precious moments throughout our childhood. You remind us about the importance of really connecting – having those conversations with our kids and grandkids. Being present – living in the moment.

    This post was a great way to start my Sunday. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Paula Bourque
    Posted at 12:16h, 17 March Reply

    Life can be very hectic and busy, so in the time we have to spend with our loved ones it is so important to be fully present. Nothing says, “I see you. I hear you. I love you.” the way being fully in the moment with someone can. This post got me thinking about how often my parents might have agreed to do something they didn’t want, just because I (or my siblings) may have wanted to do it with them. Then I started thinking about how often I have given that same gift to my own children. A lot to linger on with this slice….Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Christine
    Posted at 18:57h, 17 March Reply

    Clare – I loved reading about the memory of you and your dad and his gift of time. I agree that we need to give our children that gift of time. It’s easy to forget this with devices readily at our sides and at the sides of many parents. Connections to our children take time and effort!
    Thank you for your words today. It’s a dad kind of day!

  • Avatar
    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 00:54h, 18 March Reply

    Clare, your post reached right out to my heart. Those special times you spent with your dad are with you forever. I wonder, too, if the children in our lives feel that sense of precious time that someone gives them. I want to read this post again and watch your wonderful craft unfold. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Avatar
    Amanda Potts
    Posted at 01:20h, 18 March Reply

    I have just come downstairs from 45 minutes of reading and snuggling with my children. May they some day remember the time we spent together in the way that you remember the time with your father. May I not forget that even when it means putting other things to the side, this is the time that matters. Thank you for sharing a beautiful memory.

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