What’s the best parent-child gift? Actually, I think there are two pillars that make the best gift to any child: love and time. In today’s world, love is a lot easier to give than time. Too many parents are caught up in the onslaught of work and bills. Too many parents come home from the office, too tired to pay sufficient attention to their children. Consequently, we are depriving ourselves and our children of much of our happiness.
In my recent blog on the Time Magazine article on “Ordinary Parents: Extraordinary Children”, the article highlighted the importance of maintaining a conflict free home. The world is chaotic enough; let the household (and especially the relationships within the household) be a safe haven from the surrounding chaos. But in that safe haven, you need time together. That’s 1:1 time with each person. That’s not the occasional “hello, how are you doing?” exchange.
I have highlighted the statistics in prior blogs, but let me repeat. The average couple spends 4-20 minutes 1:1 with each other on most work days. The average parent spends 4-20 minutes 1:1 with each of their children on most work days. Those are not statistics that promote long and healthy marriages. Those are not statistics that promote the development of those extraordinary children. Love and time is needed. Not just love.
Those two pillars are crucial for your children during their young childhoods, but they are also crucial during their adolescent years and even during their college years when they transition away from home and into adulthood. Love and time are life-long, not short-term. A parent’s challenge is to maintain those pillars, even when time grows short, even when responsibilities grow heavy, even when the child grows older.
Let me give you one example. In September and October, most colleges will offer a “Parent’s Weekend.” If the college is close, it gives the parents a chance to visit and re-engage their child, creating emotional closeness despite the geographic distance. But what happens when you are too far away? What happens if you cannot manage to travel to the parent’s weekend? What can you offer?
It’s the same as if you were home, overloaded with work and overwhelmed with other responsibilities. You have to be creative. You have to find avenues for achieving the same goals. You have to find ways to express the love; and you have to find ways to expand (or connect with) time. Here’s an example of how my wife and I tried to reach those goals when we were not able to attend parent’s weekend. Be creative. Find your own ways to strengthen both pillars.
As I sit here on a Saturday night (with Austen studying upstairs), Mom and I wish we could be 3000 miles east, enjoying your parent weekend. We would have enjoyed flying into New York on Thursday, exploring the Village with you on Friday, watching you dive in the diving meet on Saturday, treating you to a nice dinner on Saturday night, and relaxing with your friends on Sunday – sharing your life at NYU. Right now, as I refill my cup of green tea and glance at the chain of rings (counting the days to your return home), my mind jumps to November 22nd! We are really looking forward to your return for Thanksgiving and it’s not because of the feast. It’s because we can’t wait to spend time with you. We appreciate all of your calls and text messages, but nothing beats time together. With that point in mind, I want to offer a gift from another time. A gift to show how much we have loved you. Here are the very first letters we ever wrote to you. For now, just consider it a parent weekend gift.
From the moment I learned that I was pregnant, I had a good feeling about you! I was most concerned about me. I was thrilled and excited with the pregnancy, but at the same time I was worried about what type of mother I would be. You gave me no trouble at all during the pregnancy — hardly any morning sickness, 21-pound weight gain, no edema, and general good health. It must have been the daily walks (Balboa Island on the weekends), the nightly stretching, the good food and the weekly sushi. But of course the labor was not so easy. When you entered the world, no words could express how I felt the moment I saw you, nor the moment I first held you. It was one of the best moments of my life! Another great moment followed — the first time I breastfed you. I was giving you something no one else could give you! Right away, we bonded immediately. We were a team! Someone once said,” you don’t know love until you have a baby.” And that person was right! Never have I felt such joy and love until you came along! And I would go through the whole experience again just to relive the moment and see your precious face! I love you!
Your mom, Priscilla
Six years of infertility, a conception on 6/08/87 in a test tube (my sperm / mom’s egg), three months of suspended animation in cryofreeze, a thawing and insemination on 10/30/87, a positive pregnancy test on 11/17/87, a normal amniocentesis report on 2/19/88 (showing that all your genes were “normal”), then thirty-eight hours of labor, a suction devise, metal forceps, and a cord wrapped around your neck … but with our first look at you, we knew it was worth the long wait and the long ordeal. Love at first sight? Some people say it never happens; but for us, that’s all it took! Just one look! And God how we loved you! To us, you were beautiful, almost angelic. And what a surprise — brown hair and my features! For starters, that would be my first wish: that you do not have too many of my features! Let’s give you — our little lady — a chance! In truth, it did not matter how you looked and it does not matter what you become. I love you now and I will love you always. You have made us a “family” and nothing is more important than that! Perhaps, that is what I hope to teach. Feeling love, establishing a family, and having time to share life’s experiences; that is what counts the most! The task will not be easy. There are often setbacks and other demands in life. But persistence and perseverance are the secrets to staying true to your family. I hope I can be supportive to you in that process — both as a father and as a friend. My dad (in the good old days) used to call me “his buddy”. Maybe I can be that to you. As I write this first letter, it’s only been a week since your birth; but already our time together seems so precious. Whether it’s been washing you on the kitchen counter, changing your diapers, or cradling you in my arms, those moments have all been a delight. Yes, and you have been a delight! You have been cheerful, energetic, cooperative, and inquisitive to life … with hardly a cry or whimper. Skyler, welcome to our world! I love you so much!
Your father – Dad
After all these years, we couldn’t say it any better …
It still rings true from our hearts …
Happy parent weekend …
From the parents who are there is spirit …
Still loving you after all these years …