It's been a fairly interesting week in my world. I have been recovering from a minor surgical procedure and am looking forward to being at 100% (whenever that will be). The holidays seem to be upon us and I keep asking myself where the rest of the Fall went. September and October are behind us and November's end is close at hand. Not sure how I missed two months of my life, especially when one of those months included the birth of my third child.
After playing Wii with my 5 year old for far too long yesterday afternoon, we went outside and he and my 3 year old rode bikes. The 5 year old still has training wheels on, but I figured that he might be ready to try two wheel riding today. I've got a little hitch in my step, so I couldn't chase him around for too long, but he made some great strides towards riding by himself and there were no major injuries. I giggled to myself as he said, "This is pretty easy." Deep inside, I felt a keen sense of pride.
The boys of the family went to the library the other day and I decided to get some Thanksgiving books out while we were there. Instead of additional consumption of television time after dinner, we dove into a few of these books. The trusted Berenstain Bears book was a major disappointment. Guess my expectations were greater. While reading through one of the other books, my 5 year old began to read some of the words and so I decided to see how much he could read. He read all of the words that were listed on the 2 pages with Thanksgiving terms.
Before bed, I had him read one of those graded readers that you can buy at places like Target and WalMart. He made it all the way through a story about Lightning McQueen and Mater. Again, I swelled with pride, so much so that the glow may have outshined the neighbors' Christmas lights. I was impressed and I was proud.
As I thought about these achievements in my son's life, I began to wonder how long it would be before I began to focus more on the words that he was getting wrong rather than the words that he had gotten right. I wondered when I might become unsatisfied with his efforts of reading 10 pages and push him toward 15 or 20 instead. I wondered if these things were inevitabilities or if they could still be prevented.
We have such a tendency in our society to look at the negative and I am a product of that. Yearly reviews come up in our jobs and we might talk for 5 or 10 minutes about the positive achievements that we have made and spend the other 45 minutes or so talking about all of the ways that we might improve. While I have no problem seeking ways in which I might improve, I wonder if there is more of a balanced approach that we might take.
I want to be an encouragement for my children. I don't want them to be in therapy years from now talking about how hard they tried to win their dad's approval. At the same time, I am a parent and not a friend. If I start as a parent, the friendship will come in later years. That's not to say that there is no enjoyment in my time with my kids, it just means that in the battles that rage, I need to be a parent first and a friend second. I want my kids to know that I am proud of them but I also want them to know that I have high expectations of them because I know what they are capable of.
As I watched my 5 year old ride across the cul-de-sac towards our lawn on two wheels, I was struck with a wave of emotion. Part of it is the newness of the holiday season entered into fresh off the heels of the loss of my mom. There will be grief and sadness but there will also be newness as every day is a new opportunity with my children. But 5 years has gone by quickly, and though I feel like I have spent some quality time with my kids, the magnitude of my responsibility and the benefit of my opportunities became readily apparent to me. My son will only be 5 years old once, am I taking advantage of this time?
I have heard the cliché over and over again about the fact that no one who is on their deathbed says they wish they had worked more. Life is all about balance and I feel like I am constantly walking the fence over getting it right. Milestones are called such because they happen infrequently. I don't want to miss them because those are the things which I, and my children, will hold dear years from now. Sometimes things have to wait. Lawns. Dishes. Reports. Meetings. There are more significant things waiting to be experienced by people who will appreciate them way more. Don't forget to make time for those things. If you happen to see me and I look like I'm forgetting, don't hesitate to remind me. We all need reminding from time to time.