We pull west into our driveway, the waning sunset silhouetting the basketball hoop on this “unseasonably warm” day. The daughter says, “Stay here, Mom, we’re going to have some fun.” She leaps out of the car and bounds up the steps into the house.
The oldies station is on the car radio, and here is Bob Dylan singing his anthem of the ‘60s:
Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’…
For the times they are a-changin’.
The daughter reappears cradling a basketball. “Come on, we’re going to play!” I leave the radio on, the windows open. Bob Dylan moves on to family matters:
Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. . .
“Good shot, Mom!” She shows me how to aim for the corner of the box that’s painted on the backboard. We take turns shooting. “Guard me,” she says, “and watch this new shot I’m working on.”
“Guard” is purely a figurative term since she’s got six inches on me. (How did that happen?) She swoops and leaps as the night advances. Two stunning planets now hang in the evening sky.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command is something every parent must confront sooner or later. The parents of Dylan’s era had it harder than most: Many of their kids completely rejected their parents’ whole worldview. In contrast my husband and I have had it easy—our daughter’s latest protest tactic is revolving with her arms spread wide to indicate when I’m being a “helicopter parent.” But she’ll be off to college before you know it—beyond our command.
“The days are long but the years are short,” writes Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project. The psalmist says it too: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Ps. 118:24), and ”Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Ps. 90:12). The daily crises of parenting can blind us to the blessedness of the moment. Sometimes the basketball hoop in the twilight must win out over the homework, the dinner waiting to be made.
Dylan is wrapping up. You can hear the Bible echoes here if you listen:
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past . . .
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
Our kids change right before our very eyes. The boy whose shoes you were tying now can outrun you, will soon tower over you. (Someday, who knows, he might be tying your shoes.) That might not have been what Jesus was talking about when he said, “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16), but we’ll take it nonetheless. When they are infants it seems like we have all the time in the world with our kids, but in fact the opposite is true.
The clock is running; time is short. Take your best shot.
—by Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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