Working at home, as editor for Walnut Creek Patch, with a, yes, flexible schedule, I thought I'd be able to enjoy some moments with my 12-year-old son. I could arrange to go to weekly matinees, and make up the time or night, or we could pick time to go rock climbing, as he has come to like.
He's been so enamored of his weekly golf lessons that he said, "Mom, you should learn golf, too!"
Did I take a golf lesson? No. Too busy. Too caught up in work.
We rented some classic movies, which we talked intensely about watching.
He looked forward to watching them with me, but sometimes I fell asleep. Other times, there was just work I just couldn't stop thinking about, and I'd tell him, no, not tonight, I've got worked. '
Often when we were driving in a car somewhere, and he was talking about this comedy show he loves, a new book he had read, or he was peppering me with questions about God, the presidency, our relations with the Russians, and what was that Cold War thing anyway, I'd be on auto-pilot, answering his questions or responding with a "hmm," "oh yeah?"
Sometimes, as my son was talking about something, I felt myself wishing he would just be quiet for a minute, so I could focus on what I needed to think about.
Then, I'd feel terrible. Here he is, my little boy growing up, and it's a summer when he wants to be with me, and talk to me, and spend time with me. Maybe this is the last summer this will be true for us. Maybe next summer, he'll think I'm an idiot and not worth his valuable 13-year-old's time, because he'd rather be with this cool friends.
And now the summer of his being 12 is gone.
But it's not just me, apparently, so caught up in my own whatever, that I haven't been present at key moments for my son.
I was talking to some other parents recently who were also weighed down by this horrible feeling of giving their kids short shrift, because they were so darned busy, or, in general, overwhelmed by life.
Another writer/journalist friend, a single mom, said she was inundated with freelance assignments these past few months, and, in this economy, she didn't want to turn them down. So, for much of the summer, she was sitting at her computer writing, while her son, 12, like my son, was in and out at friends homes or sports practice.
"I really didn't see much of him," she said, with sadness, also ticking off the list of things she hoped she could spend time doing with him.
One Walnut Creek dad, who does consulting work at home, said he got caught up in being director of the swim team program at a local community pool. He said that volunteer job involved tons of time, often dealing with a handful of parents who had lost perspective and took the whole competition way too seriously.
That volunteer job, for this dad, took up major amounts of time, that he should have been devoting to his paying jobs--and to his sons. He said his older son, who is learning guitar, kept begging him for some time together to just sit down and play guitar with him. And this father, who felt so overwhelmed with these other demands on his time, kept putting his son off.
This dad, who had initially taught his son guitar so long ago, finally found himself forcing himself to say "yes" to his son's request.
The dad said that it took major mental effort to to turn off the anxiety-provoking must-do list in his brain--so he could focus his attention on his son.
This dad said he took a deep breath, grabbed his guitar and sat down with his son. Side by side, the two strummed out some tunes.
And, as this father describes, it was the most beautiful, magical moment he had experienced in a long time.