One afternoon last year, I found myself on the hardwood floor with my then 4 year old daughter, surrounded by markers, crayons, scissors and a large paper tree we had just cut out of butcher paper. It was a spontaneous project prompted by a book we had just read. A friend walked by our open door and before we finished our “hellos” he was on the floor too, with a marker in hand, designing a flower that was going on the wall next to our five foot tall tree. Our friend was 72 years old.
While coloring my flower that afternoon, the activity taking place struck me. Three people. Three generations. Spontaneously creating art on the floor. This was an activity we never imagined we would be doing that afternoon. However, these few minutes ended up being the most precious minutes we spent all day. We had cast all adult worries behind and come down on the floor to spend time with my daughter on her level, in her world. Paper scraps and art supplies littered the floor as I forgot about the dinner preparations I was planning. Our friend was no longer thinking of the project he was heading to complete in his workshop when he walked by our door. If he was at all concerned that maybe he might not be able to get up off the floor, he did not show it. We were living in the moment and embracing the time with my daughter.
Time. The clock continues to click. Everyday we are given a choice of how we choose to spend our time. I realize that the time I spend with my daughter is the greatest gift I can give her. It is a gift whose benefits will be seen for years to come. If true time, time not shared with adult worries, interrupted by text messages or guided by adult agendas, is the greatest gift that we can give our children, why is it then often the hardest gift to give? Why is it hard to share our time with others?
Unfortunately, work demands, household and financial obligations and often selfishness take priority over spending time with our children and sharing our time with each other. We all complain that we do not have enough time in our day. Something gets squeezed out and it is often time with our children. When our internal time clock stops ticking, the car we drive or the neat household we maintain will not be remembered by the next generation. However, the time that we invest in our children today will pay off in the future. It is an investment well spent.
Young children crave time with their parents. This time benefits the adult as well as the child. Children learn by example but so do adults. Over the past few years, my daughter has taught me how to slow down, keep things in perspective, focus on what really matters, worry less and play more. Big lessons taught by a small child. Some days the laundry might not get done, we eat leftovers again, and the emails do not get sent. Instead, I may have gone to the spa and received a banana facial, danced the hula while being serenaded on the ukulele, had a tea party on the patio with Minnie Mouse or made people out of the bread dough intended for our sandwiches. This is true priceless time together.
Like all parents, I have a dream for my daughter. I wish for her to grow up to be a happy, healthy productive and loving adult. Someday, she will take all that I have given her and fly on her own. I must make a conscious choice to spend time with my daughter to provide her with the skills she will need to successfully navigate independently in the world. It is both my responsibility and my most important job. When the day is over, I want to be confident that I have done my best, given her all I could and chose wisely how to spend my time. We can’t recapture lost time, only learn from the past and move forward.
For months, when I looked at the large ragged tree on our wall, I didn’t see the funny looking branches or the multicolored flowers. I saw my daughter practicing with scissors, taking turns, sharing stories with our friend and listening patiently – all skills that start with the gift of time.