We've been asking that question far too much lately.
My mentor for many years - Cecil Sherman - also had a saying about kids. Talking about the seasons of the child-parent relationship, Dr. Sherman would say, "For 6 years you have them. For 6 years you share them. And for 6 years, they're leaving." That home-made proverb certainly was true for my relationship with my kids.
- For the first 3rd of their childhood, they were my shadow, under my feet all the time, always wanting to be where I am.
- For the middle third, they loved being with me, but only if they could have a friend come, too.
- For the final phase - friend or not - they really weren't all that interested in hanging out with Dad.
But there is an interesting thing happening with me, and I bet that this is also common for others. As my first two children are grown (over 18) and the 'baby' is still a child (12 years old next week), Susan and I have started to behave a lot like 'empty nesters'. We find ourselves working all the time. Without the 'common cause' of the children to rally around (which is premature, really, because Joshua still needs us), we have moved into this pattern where we just pass each other. We both work all day, but then I have meetings on Tuesday evening, she has them on Monday evening, we both have them on Wednesday evening. Small group here, a wedding for me there, throw in a little maintenance on the house that needs to be done...
The next thing we know, literally weeks have gone by and we've spent virtually NO meaningful time together!
So, this week, on Monday, we both said, "Enough!" We agreed that this pattern HAS to stop! We needed to go away, invest some real time with each other and figure out how to live in a new way. I cleared my calendar on Thursday after lunch so that I could spend the afternoon with Joshua (I took him to see a movie and some other stuff). And later that night, Susan and I left for one of our new, favorite getaway places - a moutainside house in Rileyville, Virginia.
We sat - talking at times, silently at others, and enjoyed the cool breeze, the sounds of the cicadas, the view of the small white church building (you can see it in the middle of the picture), the over-full river and the little farms.
We started to dream again about slowing down, enjoying each other, enjoying our family, enjoying our lives. We dreamed of the future - tomorrow and ten years from now.
Why is it that when balance is found, it doesn't remain? How could I forget how important time like this is to being healthy? What would possibly motivate me to put anything above a steady, consistent, disciplined, large investment of time into being with her?
Of all the ways God has blessed me, none except Jesus himself surpasses the gift she is to me. She completes me, steadies me, takes care of me, helps me think more clearly. She makes me far better than I am. I am a steward of my time with her and my relationship with her. I can maximize that for all it's worth...or I can squander it, wasting that investment on things that will bring a far less valuable return.
And life if far too short for me to look back and wish I had worked less and loved her more.