Sunday, May 16, 2010

Enjoy them while they're young

It’s been a few years now but as a young father I remember the older and wiser parents around us frequently saying nice things about our babies and then adding with a sort of wistfulness, “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Now I confess that while my smile and thanks for the compliments were sincere, I struggled with an “obvious” question—what part of them being young was I supposed to enjoy. Was it the poopy diapers, the interrupted sleep, the crying, the stress of taking care of them, the trying to get them to sleep—my list was pretty long and I didn’t get it.

Life was a series of chores. Go to school, get a degree, get a job, work hard and someday I would “arrive”. What that really meant I didn’t know because there was no definition to it. But surely, it would be a place of ample time, plenty of money, no worries, and lot’s of family vacations.

Well, here I am on May 16th, celebrating my oldest daughter’s 19th birthday, my second oldest daughter’s graduation from high school seminary, and grateful my wife of 20 years hasn’t given up on me.

Of course all those older and wiser parents were right. And now I understand that it all happened too fast for them too and they were just hoping I wouldn’t make the same mistake they made which is to let real life slip through your fingers by not realizing that “life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”

Talitha was a gift from heaven to our family.

Our youngest before her was already nearly 8 years old when Tali arrived. In many ways, it was a second chance to have a little one around again now that I’d learned the hard way like all parents seem to that they really do grow up way too fast.

Now Talitha hasn’t been any easier of a baby than our other five children were. (And that was before the cancer.) Tali didn’t sleep through the night till she was a year old, which by itself wouldn’t have been so hard except that now we had a bunch of teenagers who didn’t like to go to bed till late (or early depending on how you look at it). So with Tali getting up early and the other kids going to bed late, this meant the candle was being burned on both ends.

But even though life was more challenging than ever, it was different because I wasn’t living each day as a big chore list for the future like I tended to do with my other children.

As we fight to save Tali, I try to remember that this phase of life’s journey is an essential part of life’s journey. It’s not just some unfortunate inconvenience to be rushed past in anticipation of some other undefined nirvana of the future. It is precisely the trials that build the contrast that inevitably define joy’s breadth and depth.

Yes, the days in the hospital are long. But sometimes I remember to soak it in and enjoy the moment and cherish life and my relationship with this beautiful little girl and all of my children. And when I do remember, the bitter becomes a little more sweet and patience is more my friend and ally than stumbling block.

Our family is truly grateful to have Talitha at home for a few days. We’re trying to think less of how long she’ll be at home this time and more about what a gift it is that she’s home at all.

We’re not just enjoying her while she’s at home or at the hospital.

We’re enjoying her while she’s young!

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