The Gift of Time

One of the things I remember about the Newtown shootings last year is that I was going that afternoon to my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. I could not wait to get to school and see my then six-year-old son, a boy the same age as most of the victims. I could not wait to surround myself with joyous Girl Scouts, only slightly older, and tell them all about the wonders of cookie sales.

I promised myself that I would not waste a single minute of the time I have with my children on being aggravated or annoyed. I would cherish their childishness, not “consequence” it out of them.

About ten minutes in to the Girl Scout Meeting I was ready to tie most of the girls to a chair. They had not heard about the tragedy and were being their normal selves. A group of 14 eight-year-old girls is, although very cute and fun, also pretty obnoxious.

I’m sure it wasn’t more than a day after that horrible day that my children were in trouble.

Whenever we, as parents, hear about a child who has died or is gravely ill, or a parent who has died, or a horrible tragedy like Newtown we make these vows to ourselves. We promise ourselves that we will not be so rushed or hurried, that we will treasure every moment.

But, then real life comes in to play. Our children are loud, they talk back. They are disrespectful and messy. They dawdle when we have a schedule to keep, they hit each other and will not leave us alone for five minutes to pee (yes, still).

So, we do not treasure every minute. We do not let things slide. We impose consequences and have serious discussions with dos and don’ts. When we hear about a child who has died too soon we feel so much guilt about sending our own child to his room. We think about how if today were our daughter’s last day we would want it to be filled only with hugs.

But, today, almost exactly a year after the Newtown massacre I went back to my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop to talk about cookies. They listened and took notes. They remembered things from previous years, they were polite and worked well with each other. They are now mainly nine and ten, and they are still just as cute, but less obnoxious.

The reason they have grown and are growing in to reasonable human beings is because we parents have gone about our lives. We have imposed consequences along with hugs and kisses. Our children have grown up.

The children of Newtown were not allowed to grow up. So, yes, remembering that horror I’ll give a few extra hugs and kisses. But I won’t feel guilty for not living each day with my children as though it could be their last.

I’ve been given the gift of time with my children, and I will treasure it, and use it, even if that means sometimes acting like I’m not.

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