One night I dreamt a dream that made me fear:
My children old were grown, and I, near dead.
I yearned to see them once more gather near,
But they refused to come around my bed.
So, dreaming still, I begged them, “Please come here.”
“We don’t have time to visit you,” they said.
“When we were young and wanted time with you,
You always said that you had work to do.”
Awake, I pinched myself: yes, living still;
I ran to see the children: they were young.
We planted seeds in pots on windowsill,
We left no children’s song we knew unsung,
We went outside to hear the whippoorwill,
And even tried to touch our nose with tongue.
This poetry can wait another day,
But right now I have kids who want to play.
Written in 2002: No matter how many or how few children you have, you probably have discovered how hard it is to give your children your undivided attention. I’ve heard stories about mothers who had a plan for meeting with each child individually on a regular basis. One such lady was Susanna Wesley, who devoted one hour each week to each of her twelve children. On the other hand, I have heard sad stories of old women whose grown children would have nothing to do with them because “they didn’t have time.” Those mothers had effectively taught their children that activities, jobs and programs are more important than relationships, and they were paying the price. Oh, may I learn that lesson early enough to reap the rewards when I am old.
Update in 2017: My children are older now, but have not quite left the house. We did a lot together as they were growing up. We went to concerts, museums, zoos, aquariums, beaches, lighthouses, mountains, and parks. We had picnic lunches and water balloon fights. We tended gardens. We went hiking, tenting, boating, jet skiing, and swimming. We visited 15 of our beautiful United States. I taught them how to bowl, play table tennis, and shoot pool. They taught me how to play foosball. We played all kinds of table games together. I watched all of their soccer games and coached their baseball and softball teams. I taught them how to work and took them to work with me when I could. I taught them how to cook, how to sing, and how to play the piano; and we cooked, sang, and played together. We went to church together; we prayed together. We laughed and cried together. We did crafts together. And we watched lots of movies.
Like most people I know, I do stay busy. But particularly since we moved, I’ve committed to stopping whatever I’m doing whenever one my children needs me or just wants to talk. My work is important, but it’s not more important than my children. I’ve tried to let them see that.
But somehow all of that wasn’t enough. According to my oldest son, I still spend too much time engrossed in my laptop. And according to my daughter, I haven’t done the one thing that matters most to her—I haven’t taken them to a theme park. It’s always been on the list of things we’d like to do on that illusive someday. But the perhaps-too-practical part of me says that’s a lot of money for sheer entertainment, and so I balk, I hesitate, and I procrastinate. Maybe it’s time to just do it. We are not rich by the world’s standards, but God has blessed us. Who knows? Maybe sometime in the next 12-15 months, you’ll visit my blog and read about the wonderful time we had at Dollywood. I sure hope so. Perhaps that will be her senior trip. If that’s what it takes to make my daughter feel that her childhood is complete, then I suppose it’s worth the cost.
Photo taken along the trail leading to Whitewater Falls in North Carolina, 2008