17 Mar Slice of Life: The Gift of Time #SOL19 #TWTBlog
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.
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?
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.