Yesterday was my daughter Emily’s birthday, and Jen and I gave Sweet Pea something that she’s been wanting for a year: a pair of pink roller skates. She started asking for them the first time she saw our smooth concrete basement floor. It was as if a light bulb went on. She walked down the stairs, took one look around and proclaimed “this would be perfect for skating!” Sweet Pea is very much like Junie B. Jones, the beloved character about whom Barbara Park writes: opinionated and not very good at screening her words. I have no idea where she gets these traits, but that’s neither here nor there. When Jen and I presented her with her gift, her eyes lit up and she immediately and unabashedly exclaimed “this is the best present I ever got!” She immediately dashed off to change out of her mermaid costume (yes, you read that right. We’re talking about Sweet Pea here, after all) and returned to try out her new skates. I wasn’t there later, but I understand that there was something of a scuffle when her mother tried removing them from her feet at bedtime. Yeah, that gift was definitely a winner.
Today I was chatting with Sue, a friend who also happens to be my boss at work. The topic of our talk started with Sweet Pea’s skates and turned to a pair of skates Sue received from her grandfather when she was a little girl. She told me that the skates were her most favorite gift of all those she had ever received as a child. This spurred a discussion about how very often children put a great deal of value on gifts that adults don’t give a second thought. That led to observations on how certain moments a parent spends with a child can often take on very special importance to that child, but the adult may never realize it. For example, I have a fond memory of getting into a water fight with my mom when I was about 11. My brother, sister and I were outside and my mom was in the kitchen doing dishes. I was running the hose and, um, accidentally sprayed Mom through the window. The next thing I knew, Mom was tossing a glassful of water through the screen at me. Of course, H2O bedlam ensued. Afterward, Mom realized that her watch had been ruined. Rather than being upset, she just shrugged it off, almost as if to say that it was a small price to pay for that kind of fun. That moment has stayed with me for almost thirty years. I don’t know if my mom even remembers it, but I sure do.
So that’s the point of this little exercise in verbosity. We spend so much time preoccupied by life’s big issues that we frequently forget that the detours are life, too. In fact, it’s in the little cul-de-sacs of our day that the most potential for joy exists. Kids remember a lot, and they remember things that we never expect them to. So my goal is this: when I’m spending time with my kids, I am going to try to be more aware of each moment. Moments like Sonny coming down into the basement to help me with the platform bed or like Sweet Pea standing there patiently – kind of – while I strapped on her knee pads and helmet before she took a few laps around her apartment parking lot. I am going to be more conscientious of this because I have no idea which activity I engage in with them will turn into a precious memory. Most imperative is that I take the time to provide moments that can turn into heirlooms. Think about it. It this speaks to you, act accordingly. Your kid will remember you all the better for it.