Saturday, April 6, 2013

How Fleeting the Time with Our Children

I just rode the Amtrak train to Chicago and back. On the way to Chicago, a young father sat with his daughter, and she appeared to be about eight-years-old. The father played games on his handheld the entire train ride.

On the evening train trip home from Chicago, a family of mom, dad, and two sons aged about 5 and 7, sat in the seats across the aisle from me. The mom and seven-year-old were directly across so it was hard not to observe their interaction, or lack thereof.

The boy had with him a large Rainforest Café drink cup that probably cost ten bucks or more, along with a rainforest toy frog. Obviously this family was on a vacation or leisure outing of some sort. Yet, the mom was engrossed, and I mean completely and totally engrossed, with playing a game on her handheld. I don’t play these games, but it looked something like the old Centipede game that I played on a big ol’ bulky arcade machine back in the 80’s when I was in college. You know—the games that cost jars of saved-up quarters in order to play.

The little boy talked softly, and when he did, his mom told him to “Be quiet.” He barely moved, and she loudly admonished him to “Sit still.” At one point she said, in a frustrated huff, to “Go sit by your Dad if you don’t want to sit here.” The poor child. The entire time the mom barely took her eyes off her game. Her frustration resided not in the son’s behavior, but in it being an interruption to her game. So the boy continued to play quietly with his Rainforest Café frog so mom could continue to white-knuckle it with the handheld.

About a half hour later, the little boy was fast asleep, his knit hat pulled down over his eyes due to the bright internal lights of the train, which do not turn off during the ride. He was leaning up against the cold hard side of the train, in a rather uncomfortable position. Looking over and seeing her son sleeping this way, the mom took a small camera out of her purse and took a picture of her son sleeping. She couldn’t pay one iota of attention to him while awake, but she’s all over him with a camera while asleep. After taking the photo, she went back to playing her game. Never occurred to her to take that young boy in her arms and nuzzle him into a more comfortable position against her body while he slept.

My compassion is as much for the parent, who is choosing to replace time with a child for time with Angry Birds or Tetris, as it is for the child. I know regret. My kids are grown and gone. That is why I write this. Oh the regret parents will have when they look back and see the wasted moments, the precious commodity of time they can never get back! If you have children, and they lovingly want your interaction, give it to them.

I’m not talking about indulging bratty behavior. I’m not talking about spoiling kids. The boy with the frog only wanted his mom’s interaction; he was not a brat. He was on a train, sitting next to his mom, and he wanted to share the adventure with her. He obviously did not find his expensive Rainforest Café cup and frog to be a replacement for his mother.

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.” Psalm 39:4-5

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

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