Cherish the interruptions

I was inspired to write this blog from something that happened a few months ago, and many times since.  While sitting on the couch watching “The Big Bang Theory”, I was interrupted by my excited and wide-eyed, 3 year old son.  “Dad, hurry! Come look at this huge monster bug in the garage!”  The question is what did I do, right?  We all know what I should have done; obviously I should have just switched off the TV and followed my boy out into the garage.  Not only is he one of the most important things in my universe, the others being his siblings and mother, but this might be a great teaching opportunity.  Besides the fact that I just like to play with my kids.  Still, I’m tuned in to the TV and after a particularly stressful and exhausting day at work, including several looming issues, deadlines and mind numbing computer work, all I wanted was to lie on the couch in front of the TV.  So, as you can imagine, my instinctive reaction was to ignore him or put him off.

Fortunately, I spend a lot of my time and energy thinking about and working toward being the best dad that I can.  I have some very strong reasons for this that go beyond the desire for my kids to buy me a #1 dad mug or tee shirt  for Father’s Day.  These reasons begin with the tragic and sudden death of my own dad when I was just about 6 years old.  They then continue with the overwhelming love and support I felt from first my mother, then my grandfather and finally my step father, among others.  I believe that my siblings (all younger) and I were paid a lot more attention than most kids because of our immense loss.  Despite the horrific death of my dad, this increased love and attention had a profoundly positive influence on me and it awakened my entire family to the truly important aspects of life.  I know that my dad loved me deeply and I have very strong and loving memories of him, but like most of us he was somewhat complacent.  He was 27 years old and as a young man he felt that same almost immortality that most of us feel at that age.  I am certain that if he has any regrets it is where he spent his time.  I am sure there were plenty of occasions where he put me off or ignored me as so many parents do.  Harmless little instances that would mean everything, to both of us, if he could have that time back.  I am sure that my dad loved me just as much as I love my kids and I often imagine what would have been his final words of wisdom.   I am very conscious of the fact that I will die, and sooner rather than later.  I may have years more or days, but it is not in the unimaginably distant future.  I consciously acknowledge and reaffirm daily that my family is of the utmost importance to me and that I want them to know that with absolute certainty.  I realize that I will never regret wasted moments on things such as TV and idleness.  These realizations come to me from firsthand experience; I truly hope you have not had anything similar.  Still, there are powerful lessons to be learned.  For example, my family does not go separate ways or hang up the phone without saying “I love you.”  This is because one day my mother could no longer say that to my dad and she was determined to never waste the opportunity again.

There is more, in memory of my dad, and because of my love of my own kids, I long ago decided to raise them without regrets.  This is not to say that I do not watch TV or engage in any other less-than-earth-shattering activities, I just try do so sparingly.   It also does not mean that every time my kids tug at my sleeve I drop whatever I am doing.  I just don’t automatically turn them away but consider each request individually against what I’m doing (and with two hyperactive boys there are many).  While I often tell them “in a few minutes” or “tomorrow” there are far more occasions when I drop what I’m doing, if only temporarily, and follow where they lead.  So, I am happy to say that my initial instinct to ignore my little boy was overruled in less than a heartbeat.  With only the slightest twinge annoyance I switched off the TV.  Yes, I was irritated, because I was in the middle of something I enjoy and I didn’t really care about the big bug in the garage.  This is especially true since his idea of a cool bug and mine are usually quite different.  The fact that I felt that pang of irritation and had to force myself to make the decision to do what I knew I should was the inspiration to write this today.  If it was automatic and easy for me, and everyone else, then there would be no need to draw attention to it.

California Prionus AntennaSo anyway, I jumped up of the couch and mimicking his excitement, chased my now sprinting baby boy into the garage where he showed me his “huge, giant, bug!”  Even if it hadn’t been one of the largest I’ve ever seen, which it was, this would still have been the right thing to do.  His excitement provided the perfect condition for him to learn about this wonderful discovery of his.  I googled “huge brown beetle with large antennae Utah” and found the following image by Jeff Vier.  This told us that it was a California Prionus, at which point I found a whole lot more information about this over 2 inch monster bug.  Like how it makes it’s loud and vicious sounding screeching buy rubbing its back legs against its wings and that is considered a pest for eating the roots of fruit trees.  By this time my wife was there and our 18 month old in the middle of it too, soaking up everything we could find out.  Finally, to my sons’ delight we decided to save the fruit trees from further damage :) and feed the beetle to their Bearded Dragon, Wizard.  You could almost hear the “crunch” as he related the story to his grandparents later that night in his excited, tumbling words.

Now, this wouldn’t have been as good a story if it were simply a cockroach or cricket as it often is, but even then my baby boy would have been excited to share another beautiful moment with his daddy.  I know my dad would give anything to have a few more of those wonderful interruptions and because of that knowledge I am determined not to lose mine.  Maybe you are a better or more attentive parent than me and would have gotten up without thinking or hesitation.  If not then I urge you to pay attention, your time will be so much better spent.  Mommy and Son with the PrionusSometimes I do have to force myself to power off the TV and follow my boys outside but the more I do it the easier it becomes.  I just remind myself that one day I may not have the chance, better yet, that one day they may not have the chance.  That always launches me to my feet especially when I find myself remembering my own childhood.  Perhaps it is more poignant to me because I can remember waiting for my dad to come home both before his death and after when I did not fully understanding that he never could again.  My boys light up when I get home from work.  They’ve been waiting all day long to play with daddy.  Time is fleeting and they won’t be waiting forever (I have a teenage daughter who has long since stopped caring exactly when I will be walking through the door :))  So, I will enjoy it while it lasts and make sure that they not only enjoy our time together, but benefit, cherish and remember it for their entire lives.  My younger children are still a little young but I know that they feel my love even if  their memories aren’t permanent yet.  So, from someone who knows first hand, don’t let your kids miss out on spending time with you, cherish the interruptions.  Sometimes its inconvenient but just remember your kids should always be your first priority.  I for one wouldn’t trade those few precious minutes with my babies for every episode of The Big Bang Theory, even if it does happen to be my favorite sitcom.  Better yet, it’s not as if I have to give it up, I just wait until they are sound a sleep, and then Bazinga!


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