95: An Invitation Not an Interruption
95: An Invitation Not an Interruption
An Invitation Not an Interruption
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.
I had four children in five years… on purpose. Two of my sons were born so close together there was only one inch and one pound difference between them for their first five years. People would often ask if they were twins, and they’d say yes, but they were born a year apart.
We lived on a farm so, besides the four children, I had horses, sheep, goats, cattle and chickens to take care of. When four children are born so close together, they often feel they are part of a herd or a flock. It isn’t always easy to spend special time with them individually So, every evening after dinner, I would take each of my children on a fifteen-minute walk.
One at a time, I would take them through the grove of oak trees, or down to the rocky creek, or up the hill. In bad weather, we’d just walk up and down the long dirt driveway. We’d talk about anything, everything, nothing. We’d tell jokes, sing a song, make up poems and talk about the family. After fifteen minutes, we’d go back to the house, and I’d take the next kid out for his walk. It took an hour of my time, but for me, it was the best hour of the day. There were very few days we skipped our walks.
Could I stop washing dishes to play a game of Chutes and Ladders? Of course, I could. Would it be nice if the kitchen was clean and the dishes were washed? Sure. What’s more important, though, playing a game with my child or washing a dish?
One time, when I was frying a chicken for dinner, my oldest son rushed into the house and begged me to go outside with him. I turned off the burner, moved the skillet off the heat and went outside to see what was so important.
A heavy frost had covered the entire farm. Every tree looked as if it had been covered with white icing. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. My son and I walked through a tunnel of trees bowed almost to the ground from the weight of the frost on their limbs. The earth was silent; we were silent. It was a magical moment we shared.
I could have stayed in the kitchen and fried a chicken, but I didn’t. I followed my son outside into a scene of beauty that never happened again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime memory. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.
When my young daughter asked me to go outside to look at the “melted butter” on the hill I went even though I wanted to finish watching a movie on television; there were only fifteen minutes left. I went outside and looked across the meadow. The hill must have had a thousand jonquils in bloom. When we got back to the house, we put jonquils in every vase, pitcher, glass and cup in the house. Every year after that, there were jonquils on the hill, but there were never as many as there were that spring. I don’t remember the name of the movie I was watching that day, I don’t know how it ended or what it was about, but I’ll never forget collecting those armloads of jonquils with my daughter.
“Come quick, Mom!” one of the kids would yell, and I always stopped whatever I was doing and followed them outside to the woods, to the meadow, to the pond or to wherever they led me.
We saw wild geese flying past the full silver moon, honking to each other and landing on the pond with the reflection of the moon on the water. We watched kittens being born in the hayloft in the barn and witnessed the miracle of five new lives. We waded in snow, swished through piles of autumn leaves, danced in the pouring rain, listened to the thunder that was so loud it shook our hearts. On hot summer nights, we’d lie on a quilt on the grass for hours and watch the sky for shooting stars.
Years later, my son Peter said his favorite thing about his childhood was that no matter what I was doing, I’d always stop and give him one hundred percent of my attention, even if it was just to look at a shiny rock he’d found.
Did I make mistakes? Oh, yes, hundreds. Do I have regrets? Yes, I do, but one regret I don’t have is that when my kids asked me to do something or to go outside and look at something or to play a game, I never considered it an interruption. I considered it an invitation. They were inviting me to share their life, their special moment, and it was an honor and always an unforgettable experience and a blessing.
Dirty dishes, laundry, sweeping, cooking can wait. These things will wait patiently for an hour or a day or for several days. But moments with my children were really just moments, gone in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you only get one chance to do something.
My children are grown now. They are fine, decent, funny, warm, loving, compassionate people. I’m proud of all four of them. They have never caused me shame or grief.
I watch my children with their own children now. When their sons and daughter come running up to them and say, “Come with me, Daddy. I want to show you something,” they stop what they are doing and let their children lead them to adventures.
If I did anything right as a mother, that would be at the top of the list. When children ask you to spend time with them, it’s not an interruption. It’s an invitation to share miracles, adventures, blessings… and you only get one chance.
Title: Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC © 2014. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.