Dr. Sana Johnson-Quijada wrote recently in her blog about a happy day of relaxing she and her three children shared with her visiting Aunt and Uncle. She had kept her school-age children at home to enjoy the day with family. It brought to mind something that I did when our boys were in grade school. Something I have always been thankful for, and which I suggest to all parents. The idea was not my own, but I appropriated it from, I believe, an article I read early on in my parenting days.
Once or twice during the school year, while our sons were in grade school, I would show up at the school and “whisk” one of them away for a special one-on-one time day. For Joshua, I would declare it as “Joshua Day,” and for Matthew I would declare it “Matthew Day.” (Since Adam did not become a part of our family until much later, I did not have the opportunity to celebrate an “Adam Day,” although as an adult, we have spent special times of sharing together in much the same way.)
The boys never knew what day I would come, as I always kept it as a surprise for them. Interestingly enough, I never got a complaint from the school they were attending at the time. One of the Principals went so far as to say that she wished other parents would do the same. She understood, as I did, that nothing you do for a child is ever wasted. That is especially true when it comes to spending time. Time spent together with no pressures, no schedule, nothing set in stone – just a day to spend together doing whatever struck our fancy! Sometimes that involved spending money – we might go shopping or to a movie; other times we just spent walking around, maybe going for a swim, or just talking and laughing together!
These times were at least as important to me – if not more so – because for so much of their young lives I was seriously ill. There were a number of times when the possibility of my death was very real, and I wanted very much to have time with our boys that they could remember with joy. On days when I felt well enough, I did my best to create good times. Primarily it was a time for us to have exclusive one-on-one time, and it is something I have treasured ever since. As frequently happens, I received far more from them than they from me. But both boys have told me that they hope to be able to do the same for their own children when the time comes.
There is no substitute for time spent together. I will repeat – nothing you do for your child is ever wasted. Sometimes, however, parenting can seem like an overwhelming task. I remember one particular day when our eldest son, Joshua, was about nine years old. I sometimes felt that talking to him was like talking to a brick wall. Nothing seemed to penetrate. We had just purchased an answering machine one day, shortly after such a one-way “conversation” had taken place. The initial recording I made went something like this: “Hello! You have reached the Calhoun’s answering machine. We are unable to answer the phone in person at this time, so please leave your name and number after you hear the ‘beep,’ and we will get back to you as soon as we are able. For those of you who might find it difficult speaking to an impersonal machine, just pretend you are talking to a nine-year-old. They don’t listen either.” I erased the message before it was ever used – it was the parsonage telephone, after all, and Hubs didn’t think some of our church members would find it as amusing as I did.
I tell you that little incident because I have learned that it is also true that nothing you say to your child is ever wasted or forgotten – this especially holds true when you think that they are not listening! But I also remember a time when I really believed that one of our sons was really listening – carefully – but I found out that he was hearing me in an altogether unexpected way.
For some reason or other, Josh and I were seated on my bed and having a deep conversation. It was one of those days that I was not well, but although it was not “Joshua Day,” I nevertheless was taking the opportunity to impart some feelings and thoughts that I wanted him to know and understand. It was, for me, a perfect moment in time. He looked into my eyes (or so I thought) with utter fascination and followed every word I said. My feelings of triumph were beginning to overtake me! This was it! That magical moment when true inner and spiritual connection takes place – time stands still, and you know that you have shared something with your child that can never be taken away. Joshua remained silent throughout my talk, as I said, in rapt attention. When I at last wound down, and summed up the points of my “sermon,” I smiled at him and asked him if he understood what I had said. He nodded in the affirmative, and looking straight at me, he pointed to a place between his two front teeth and said, “Mom, did you know that your tooth is crooked right here?”
I felt as though I was a pricked balloon that shot backwards through the air, rapidly deflating and falling in a heap on the floor. I was so disappointed and disillusioned, and also humbled. I had spent too much of the talk sort of patting myself on the back in self-congratulations that I was so skillful in my parenting. I thought that all I had told him had been wasted. I found that it wasn’t. While the exact words may not have been remembered, what Josh does remember to this day is that we spent time together talking, and that I cared enough about him to want to expend some of my precious energy telling him important things. What we had done together, and what I had said – neither was a waste of time – even if it didn’t turn out the way I had originally hoped.
Sana – thank you for reminding me about this time in my life. It was a great time of learning – not just for our sons, but for us as parents. We were and are far from perfect parents (although I am planning on being the perfect grandmother 😀 !), but each time we fell short of our goal, we learned something, and we were able to carry that lesson on through the next challenge. Our children also learned that they didn’t have to be perfect to be loved. They learned that people make mistakes and that it is alright. Sometimes failure is the best teacher. From our relationship with our God, we had a glimmer of the quality of God’s unconditional love, and we were able to offer it to our children, and they back to us.
Those days set aside were truly “holy times.” The definition of “holy” is “set apart.” We have all been blessed by those holy times, and we continue to feast on that glorious soul food! Our shared lives have given us priceless memories that we would not trade for anything. We already have enough. . .