Tonight when I got home the house was empty. The lights were down and the carriage was missing. I was surprised at this for a moment but then recalled my wife telling me that she would be with the kids for an event in town. I put my work bag down and wondered what to do with myself.
“We’re with Elizabeth and her Mom,” my wife said when I called impulsively to check in, “Don’t worry, we’re having a great time. Home within the hour.”
I put down the phone and stood looking around. I was startled to realize I could relax for a few minutes and had no idea how to spend the time. I felt a little guilty to tell the truth. Part of me feels like I should not miss any time with them - though I know this is impossible for anyone.
I sat down to a light dinner of leftover Gazpacho soup (did I mention my wife is a good cook) and crackers (did I mention I’m on a diet). I thought about the kids out having fun and it made me miss them. It made me think how much goes on in their life that I don’t see everyday. Sometimes they seem to change even over the course of a single day; It’s like waking up suddenly to find a flower in bloom where it had been a tight closed bud the night before.
Some of my closest friends at work are the same way.
“Gotta coach a game tonight,” a colleague of mine had said to me earlier in the day with a big smile. He’s a warm guy with a shock of white hair and an easy friendly way about him. He reminds me of some of my best coaches growing up - just an irrepressible love of activity and of kids. I think he must be a lot of fun for the kids he coaches.
He went on to talk to me about the season they were having and their prospects. He seemed to know not just his own team, but all the members of the team they would be playing as well. It wasn’t the knowledge of a competitive coach. It was the knowledge of a teacher who’s kept an eye on the lower grades. It was easy to see he couldn’t wait to get out there.
I envy him a little in this. He’s worked for years to ensure he gets his time in with his children. It doesn’t matter the season or the weather; he’s out there with them two or three nights each week for sports. It’s important to him. It’s fun time that his children will probably always remember. And he’s taken a job that allows him to keep very early hours so he can do this - it’s commendable.
I listened to him and I wondered what my own kids were doing: out on a play date, napping, playing quietly, driving their mother crazy, or maybe lonely or bored. I think of the couple of weeks I had with them everyday on vacation and wish it could be more.
I was still thinking about lost time when my wife and kids came bustling into the house with our friends in tow. For a few minutes there was just the return of blessed noise and life. I greeted our guests and took my son up in my arms. Seeing them and hearing their little piping voices was more refreshing than any food. I guess I'd been lonely.
“We had spaghetti,” my daughter said running up to me - she was wearing some on her cloths, “It was good.”
I smiled and gave her a careful hug.
We sat and let them play and chatted with our friends until the sky darkened.
“Help them with a bath?” my wife asked hopefully when our guests had left. I agreed and took the kids for their nightly cleaning. She went for a short break.
My little guy went down to bed quickly after his bath. My daughter stayed up for a bit, playing and looking at her books (got to start her reading soon). This is quiet time I get to spend with them. I’m glad I get it. There are times in my job when I don’t get home early enough. This last spring there were two months when I did not take a weekend off. I know I’m lucky to see them each night like this.
And I don’t know any other way to do it. I’ve got to work - no lottery winnings yet.
Despite that though, I'm determined to see of much of my children as I can. I don’t know if I’ll coach them someday like my buddy does. I’ve never been much of an athlete. Probably, I’ll find some other way to spend time with them that’s more natural to me; something that we can share for the few years they’re likely to want that. Kids grow up eventually.
I look in on my children when the house is sleeping and quiet. They’re peaceful and safe and it’s wonderful to see them like this. I know in a few hours they’ll be up earlier than I want and bouncing off the walls. I know I’m not always happy about that. But I hope I can be there for it just the same. There’s so much I have to miss; I want to be there for what I can.