Why is it at 43 years old now I am learning most of life’s most valuable lessons from a 4 year old? This past Sunday on the way home from church we decided to stop by the mall. A rare event. The Brady’s are not mall walkers. But anyway, after a cheap lunch my girls, 11 and 12 years old, had some of their own money to spend and they wanted to shop in Claire’s. My 4 year old son wanted to tag along with them. Not a good idea, I reasoned. He’s home all day with them and my wife as they home school, so when I’m around we do manly man things. Start fires, kill bugs, things like that. Shopping at Claire’s for earrings is not on that list. So we ride the escalator up and down a couple of times and as my enthusiasm for it runs out far sooner than his, we opt for a bench seat outside of Claire’s. We need to safeguard our women from the evil predators stalking them, so I tell him (just kidding). And like any modern man from the 21st century, when we sit down I pull out my Blackberry. For no good reason, just force of habit. Will plays with his Mickey D’s toy and the world is a happy place. After a couple of minutes I look down at Will and he looks bored to tears and it hits me right then. I have an opportunity, even in the most mundane of moments, to interact with him; to make a memory. To be present with him. Or I could return to the fantasy baseball scores on my Blackberry and let the opportunity pass. I ventured to try option A. As soon as I turned my attention to him, he melted. He climbed up in my arms and gave me the biggest, longest hug. It was a Wow moment. Then we played this silly game in which I took his Prince of Persia figurine(come on Jake Gyllenhaal, the Broke Back Mountain cowboy is now an heroic prince?) and pretended he was climbing Will’s back to crawl into his ear and eat his brains. Disgusting and traumatic? No! He loved it. He laughed his head off for the longest time and we had a blast.
So my little fella taught me that quality time can be made anywhere, at any time, doing most anything and it doesn’t take much of an imagination because I don’t have one. But you don’t need one! We’re talking about kids. They have enough imagination for both of you. The biggest challenge is seeing these opportunities when they arise because we all get lost in our thoughts. “How can I meet my deadline at work?”, “How am I going to pay the bills this month?’, “Why is the gorgeous blond on Big Bang Theory dating that geeky dork?” You know, important thoughts like that, but all of these things will wait. Your sons and daughters will not. They are getting older and as they do, their desire to spend any time with you at all is getting slimmer and slimmer. Eventually they will seek out and find people who do want to be around them. That could be an ok thing or it could be a bad thing. Be present. It’s the best gift you can give to your kids (the same principle applies to your spouse, too, but that’s another topic for another day).