Yesterday I played in a golf clinic and I learned a lesson that had absolutely nothing to do with golf.
There were a handful of us practicing chipping shots when a young man, around twenty years old, walked up to our green. He approached one of the ladies in our group and they spoke for a few moments. He turned and walked away and I overheard her say, “See you soon!”
The rest of us continued our practice but she stopped and said, “I have to head out now because I’m going to go play golf with my son. He just told me he wants to play and I have to take any chance I get to spend time with him.” She was sincere and excited.
I stood up and watched her leave and I thought about what she said. I thought about how tenderhearted it was that she dropped everything, left her own plans and her own time, and ran after her son who wanted to spend time with his mom. It was obvious how precious he was to her. And it was the obvious part I loved the most.
I thought about her the rest of the afternoon. I thought about being obvious.
Unlike that mom, I don’t really feel the same need to take any chance I get. My kids are young and underfoot and passionately needy. I get a lot of chances to spend time with them.
I don’t need to run to my kids because, frankly, they are always running to me. It’s a little hard to imagine a time when I’d take any chance I get. It’s a little hard to imagine a time when I’d want to drop everything, including my own plans, and run.
But I know that day will come. I know that’s certain. I know there will be a time when I am on the other side of this time, a time when I’ll take any opportunity with them because they’ve chosen me over all of the other more interesting and less familiar options they have. There will be a day when I’ll get the chance to take the chance.
But until that time comes, and while I’m still standing on this side of that time, I can remember the obvious part. Until that time comes, I can still do the obvious part. I can do better at the obvious part.
Because those kids are so precious to me, no matter what time it is. I know this to be true. But it should always be obvious.
Early this morning I was running on my treadmill in the basement, very excited about a guilt-free hour of bad TV. All of a sudden I heard what sounded like elephants running on an African plain upstairs above me.
Nooooo. Ugh. Too soon! I was only 12 minutes into my Real Housewives episode! I give my kids the post-sunrise hours, but this precious early one is mine.
First I tried denial. I ran on, convinced the thumping was just a figment of my imagination or static in my headphones.
I had about forty-five glorious seconds in Never Never (Heard Them) Land before it came again.
Still I ran on, reassured because I had put a gate in the doorway of my twins’ room. I knew they couldn’t get themselves into much trouble in there. I figured I had at least until the next commercial break. I fantasized they turned on the lights and were paging through board books, or, even better, had decided to get back into their beds and fall asleep.
But then the thumping got louder. And, unfortunately, broader. I could tell the jailbirds had busted out and were running wild every inch of our Suburban plain upstairs.
I quickly surveyed my house in my head, noting the dangers they
could would probably absolutely encounter.
So, as all parents do, I reluctantly surrendered my time to theirs and resolved to set my alarm a little earlier tomorrow.
I jumped off, grabbed my sweatshirt, and headed upstairs to reign in my little rascals.
I opened the door to the basement and peeked out into the kitchen.
And then I witnessed some magic.
I saw my three kids walking from the family room to the kitchen, the six-year-old in front and the two-year-olds in line behind him, all with pjs, tousled hair, and blankets in tow. It reminded me of a mama duck and her ducklings.
From the mouth of my eldest babe, I heard these words:
Okay guys. What do you want for breakfast? Waffles or pancakes?
My jaw dropped. I stepped down a few steps, put my back against the wall, and closed my eyes. I smiled the biggest smile I’ve smiled in a really long time.
This was a big moment for me.
It was more than an “oh how time flies” moment or a “kids grow up so fast” moment.
In that scene, I saw glimpses of self-reliance. I saw glimpses of confidence. I saw glimpses of kindness and harmony.
I saw a little bit of what it takes—of what it will take for them to succeed in the big world.
The what it takes is what it’s all about.
It’s why we do what we do. It’s what makes it all worthwhile. It’s why we are able to let go, little by little.
That’s the gig for a parent—to pass on what it takes. And every once in a while we get to see that what we try to pass on, is, actually, passed on. There lies the magic.
Of course, our kids aren’t born with what it takes.
And what it takes doesn’t fall out of the sky into their laps.
So whenever we see a glimpse of it, we need to smile and give ourselves a little pat on the back.
Show me a man who has what it takes.
And I’ll bet that very same man once had a mom who smiled when she saw her little boy make his own waffles.
Today, upon your request, I visited your school and brought you lunch. You asked me to bring you a Jimmy Johns sandwich (turkey, white cheese and lots of mayo), Doritos and a chocolate milk.
I stood outside your Kindergarten classroom and watched you reading a book in the corner. After a few moments you noticed me. Immediately your eyes lit up and you started waving uncontrollably saying, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
When all of the kids got in line to wash their hands, you came and gave me a great big hug.
I glanced at your teacher and she whispered, “He is so excited!”
I followed your class into the lunchroom and smiled to myself as you saved me a spot next to you at the cafeteria table. You patted it with your hand and said, “Right here, Mom. Sit next to me.”
I forgot the mayo on your sandwich and brought BBQ chips and a lemonade. But you didn’t seem to mind.
We ate lunch and talked about important things, like how great mayonnaise is. You introduced me to the kids sitting at the table. I helped them unscrew their thermoses and open their snacks. You pointed out the clock on the wall and told me that lunch is over when the big hand gets to the twelve.
After you finished I suggested you go and throw away your trash and you told me that you needed to wait until the teacher called your table. Then you asked me to stay for recess so you could show me the playground.
So I did.
When the bell rang, you stood up, grabbed my hand and, together, we walked down the hall to go outside. You said it was the “secret” way.
Once outside, I watched you climb, hang and jump your way around every single piece of playground equipment.
We fell into a cadence of You: Mom, watch this!
And then Me: Wow, that’s great!
You showed me the swings, the sandbox and the trashcans.
At one point you told me that you had to go to the bathroom and made me promise to sit on a big tire and wait for you.
So I did.
After you came back, we played some more. And then I said I needed to go because it was time to pick up your brothers, and you begged, “No Mom, can you please just stay five more minutes?”
When five minutes was up, you asked for two more. And then one more.
When it was finally time to go, you gave me hug after hug after hug. You asked me if I would come back tomorrow.
I walked away from the playground and you stayed by my side. And when we reached the edge, I said goodbye and continued on toward my car. I turned around one last time and saw you standing at the corner with your hand raised in a wave.
I ducked behind the building for a few moments and then peeked back at you and saw your blond hair and blue shoes swinging from the monkey bars.
I stood there and thought about how important it was for me to remember this day and all of the little things you did to make it so special.
So I came home and I wrote you this letter to thank you.
Thank you for today, this big day for a lot of little reasons.
Thank you for being you.
And thank you for reminding me how very lucky I am that you picked me for your mom.
I know it won’t always be like this.
I know soon you won’t be begging for my time. You won’t be calling me Mommy, you won’t be giving me limitless hugs and you won’t be holding my hand.
I know you’ll grow up faster than I can manage in my heart.
But you gave me today.
And I will put today in a special pocket and always hold it close to me.
For today, and for you, I will forever be grateful.
Love, Your Mom