Years ago, I was on the phone with a customer. During the conversation, we spoke briefly about our families, as sometimes happens, especially with long-term customers.
“Do you have kids?” he asked.
“I do. Three,” I replied.
“How old are they?”
“10, 7 & 4… girl, girl, boy.”
“I remember when my son was four…,” his sentence trailed off as he began to reminisce of things that once were. Nostalgic moments.
Small, periodic interactions over long periods of time provide a mechanism to know others better than we might expect.
I imagine his mind scurried through a flipboard of related life experiences – the daily cadence of bedtime stories, the occasional wrestling matches on the living room floor, the seasonal ebb and flow of little league sports, the annual birthday with cake, candles, friends, and family. These all denote the passage of time, reminders of the short duration we might enjoy the most innocent love of a child.
Nearly a decade later, my son is no longer four. He is growing up, as are his sisters, like the rest of us.
Recalling this customer conversation now gives me similar nostalgic thoughts about my own children.
It’s logical to extrapolate this reminiscence to our own fathers, a priori, and perhaps his father before him, a generational echo. In doing so, we glimpse inferences of how our father might have loved us, more dearly than we imagined in our youth – certainly more than we appreciated as a child.
My father frequently reminded me, “It goes fast. And the older you get; the faster it goes.”
The subject was time.
More specifically, the brevity of time appropriated to care for our children, a fleeting season within the smallest, shadow-sized sliver of infinity allotted for life itself.
Be sure to appreciate these moments with your kids as they happen, while they are still young and bustling around the house, I reminded myself.
And I did.
We do. Still.
We will look back on these days as some of the best times in our lives, I thought, often.
One evening, I was carrying my son to his bed when he was perhaps five or six years old. He had fallen asleep in our bed, typical for him at that age.
On the way to his room that evening, I detoured into the bathroom, an intentional pause to look in the mirror. Sound asleep, he was, his warm little chest pressed to mine, head turned to the side, resting on my shoulder, legs and arms completely limp, dangling in space.
A parent carrying a sleeping child is a wonderful symbolic representation of the complete trust a child places in the parent as well as the willing, loving sacrifice a parent makes for the rearing of a child.
I stood there, looked in the mirror, absorbed the moment, and appreciated this gift. Yet, I was simultaneously saddened by the knowledge this portion of the evening routine would soon end as he aged out, like his sisters before him.
Soak this up. I thought, still looking in the mirror, the room lit by a faint, warm-yellow nightlight, a mother’s touch to help convert the house to a home.
This is truly a special moment to appreciate. He’s getting bigger and won’t be carried to bed in the arms of his father much longer.
All seasons of life have an expiration date.
I’m so thankful for this brief pause at the bathroom mirror, this ensconced memory, because it was, in fact, the last time I carried my son to bed.
This is a good reminder, to be present enough to appreciate gifts like this as they blossom in random instants, and to monument moments mentally as they happen, such that we might later reflect with extreme gratitude upon the gift of life we have been apportioned, and the gracious ways it sometimes unfolds upon us, intertwined with those we love and those we grow to know along the way.