Parenting is all about doing your best to narrow the wide gulf between you and your children, which is much more difficult than it sounds. Often it seems as if your side of the gulf is higher than your children’s, or vice versa. You both speak a different language and have different priorities. Communication, then, can at times be an exercise in frustration and futility. It’s no wonder entire nations can’t get along, what with families struggling to do the same.
Where I get tripped up with my own kids sometimes is the belief that the flow of information can only flow in one direction—me to them. Which makes sense. I’m older and more experienced in the ways of the world. I’ve been where they are. They can’t say the same about me. And as Daddy, it’s my job to pass on to them what little bits of wisdom I can find.
Lately, it’s been the eternal.
As in, keep your minds on what isn’t temporary. Things like good fortune and happiness will sometimes be there and sometimes not, so it’s best to enjoy them while you can but not hang onto them too tightly. It’s a difficult point to get across to my children; their lives are bombarded by the temporary. It’s not just that their worries and fears revolve around things that won’t matter in the end, their attention revolves around them, too.
Better, I’ve told them, to focus on the things that last. That you can depend on being there.
I never bothered to question the wisdom of this, mostly because I didn’t think I had to. It was self-evident. Common sense.
My children seemed to grasp this philosophy well enough, at least in the God sense. It made sense to them that God will always be there, so He’s the one they should count on. Next came family, then came others. Yes! That’s Daddy preachin’.
I thought I was doing a good job until I thought maybe I wasn’t. Because I slowly began to realize that a lot of the things that make my children happiest are the ones that come and go.
Over the past year, I’ve seen their eyes light up as a shooting star fell over their heads.
I’ve seen them giggle and chase fireflies.
Seen them ooh and ahh over fireworks.
I’ve seen them pass precious hours lying in the backyard grass and staring at clouds, trying to decide which is a dog and which is a lollipop. They’ve caught snowflakes on their tongues. Watched deer graze.
None of these things last. A shooting star passes in seconds, and fireflies blink in and out in an instant. Fireworks pop and glow and then die into a black night. Clouds pass. The snow falls and then melts. The deer fill their stomachs and retreat back into the woods.
And yet these are the moments they seem to cherish, just as much as God and family.
I’ve considered asking them why this is so. I haven’t. I think it’s one of those things they would have a hard time explaining to someone like me, who’s still trying to figure some things out.
But I think I know the answer without having to ask. I think this is how they praise God. They appreciate the eternal by embracing the momentary. Those little moments that pass so quickly and may never come our way again aren’t to be shunned, they’re to be held tight.
Maybe this is just another case of my kids being mostly right and me being kind of wrong. The eternal is important, no doubt about it. But maybe the temporary is too, if for no other reason than because it doesn’t last.