They say, the things that make great parents great don’t feel urgent.
They say how it’s small deposits of time – all the time – over time – that add up to what’s critical.
They say, ‘Don’t bail; let ‘em fail.’ Especially when they’re little. When the stakes are low.
They say that life experience doesn’t bring wisdom. Evaluated life experience brings wisdom.
And we take all this with us for the two weeks that we slow beneath big sky.
Because raising small humans isn’t an emergency. Not now, and not for the other fifty weeks of the year stuffed full of school mornings and wooden spoonings and veggie refusings and rush.
But I can see now – now when we linger. Share cake. Laugh loud. Flick crumbs from the kitchen step and watch birds dive and shriek cheeky. Now when we breathe the velvet of dark streets under bright stars and feel the sun after rain against blue-black clouds gleaming wet in smooth sand. I can see now how much and how often I put off the critical to handle the emergencies. I monitor manners and don’t hear their hearts. We get there on time when there’s time to take time.
So I roll up my pants and scoop sand into castles. Cheer little legs pumping pedals through mud puddles. Let them romp crazy in a haystack. Trawl through Lego for more wheels or windscreens or whatever they’re building. Let them talk. Listen.
And all these things? These slow ordinary moments brimming full?
They don’t rock the world. Not today. Not tomorrow.
But maybe – just maybe – they’ll rock the future.
Maybe – grace filling our gaps – these kids will learn the immeasurable worth of doing on purpose the mundane and the miniscule every day, all their days. Because, lived as worship, the mundane and the miniscule are the grains in life’s hourglass. Maybe a lifetime from now when boys-turned-men bring their kids to this beach, they will see how these small days began in them the great days of knowing who they are – because they’ll know how they were loved.
So I let Scott drag me to splash freezing through winter waves. He clings to me like so much ecstasy and I feel him thrill delicious as the foam crashes in to drench us laughing.
His back is turned to the swell rolling in small. And I see it coming. The big one that will take him under. I could yell and grab – lift him high. But I stop: Don’t bail; let ‘em fail. I’m right there to pull him out from the current sucking back. The stakes are low. There’s little to lose.
He’s knocked over – splutters shocked – blue lips tremble salt. He falls again as I drag him up and lose my footing and drag him up and out again.
I know the next bit is crucial.
I’m all high-fives and you’re-so-brave and wow-did-you-see-how-that-wave-knocked-you-down? He sprints like a hero to tell his dad how he survived.
Walking home trailing wet towels and new experience I tell him matter-of-fact how always to watch the sea. Stand strong. Legs spread. Face it – fake it – calm and confident. Let it wash over. And I’m praying he remembers, for all the waves that will wash over his life.
Zechariah said, ‘Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…’ (4:10) And I can see how even when nothing feels extraordinary, the extra is there in the ordinary all the time. It’s there in the day-in-day-out done well, and in faith.
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As ever, comments are so welcome. Thanks for reading.