Sometimes The Best Life Is Standing Right In Front Of You

Published in the Ferndale Record, September 25, 2013

Not long ago I overheard a parent telling her child what was going to happen that day. It was something like, “First you go to karate. Then the birthday party, then we’ll leave for Seattle, stay at Grandma’s and go to the zoo tomorrow and then you and Dad will go to the Sounders game while Jenny and I go shopping.”

This sounds like a pretty good time, right? Isn’t life supposed to be lived? Shouldn’t we expose our children to every positive thing there is to do in the world? Because this is my column and my opinion, here goes: Not necessarily.

Overscheduled lives can be good, but are rarely best. A lot can be accomplished, learned and integrated, but at what cost? I claim this because of not only what I currently see, but because of what I’ve experienced. What’s the best life?

If you believe more is best, then by all means, do all of it. Ride the ferry, take in every sporting event and concert that looks interesting, attend all birthday parties you’re invited to, crash some you’re not, and celebrate your own with over-the-top flair. Let kids take piano, dance and scuba diving lessons. Make sure they get homework done, take showers, clean their rooms and learn how to cook dinner and do laundry.

Go to the movies, ride horses, sign them up for the chess and glee clubs. Pick your kid up after school and deliver him to the dentist for that pesky cavity that needs to be filled and then make sure he gets home on time to do evening chores. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. But the truth is, as someone else once said, more isn’t always better: sometimes it’s just more.

Indulge me in a little retrospect, OK? If you choose more, memorize everything. Look at those faces, those hands, and those eyes. Touch those chubby little-baby cheeks and rumple your fingers through that silky, curly teenage hair. Don’t forget even a moment of it, because it’s here and gone, and while you’re living, working hard, running fast and trying to make a good life for your child, don’t forget that the best life is often standing right in front of you, and would like just a little bit of you and your time—even ahead of Disneyland and play dates. A wise man once said: “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.”

Last week, two of my children surprised me at work, each on different days. I remembered (again) how much I love those faces, especially when I don’t see them everyday.

Sometimes, just seeing these grownups who were once children and teenagers has sustained me, kept me standing upright when life bore down hard. Sometimes, the joy of seeing one of them unexpectedly brings me to tears. But most often, they remind me that I’m connected to a past, present and future in tangible and intangible ways and that relationships, and what it takes to maintain them, will always be more important than busyness, even very good busyness.

Good, better and best can be a hard call. But coming to a full stop and listening to your gut will tell you which is which.