Years ago I came across an interview with Bill Gates. I don’t remember the details surrounding the interview but I recall Gates saying that it was his wish that every employee would spend 15 minutes a day staring at the wall.
I’ve thought about this from time to time. Experience has taught me that Gates is the exception. But I’ll save that for another post.
Because I’m more interested in how Gate’s wish works in the home.
How much thought do I put in to becoming a better father? Do I take a few minutes each day and stare at the wall thinking about how I can better raise my children?
Or do I just wing it?
It feels like I allow outside forces to dictate not only what our children do but when they do it. At what age should they learn to play an instrument or a sport? When should they be able to swim? Do kids really need two or three years of pre-school? Tell me again why they need to attend summer camps or take dance lessons. Do they need these activities to grow or because the other kids are doing them?
Everyone has an opinion. Maybe they have given it more thought than I have. There’s too much to keep track of. And how much say should my children have in the decision?
I hear parents tell me how they’ve planned out the next few years of their child’s life. They’ve scheduled exactly how much time will be spent on school activities, sports, scouts and church functions. When I hear this I wonder what the kids think. Is this a plan for the parents or for the kids?
Last night I had more than 15 minutes to think about each of the kids and what I can do to be a better father. While Kim is out of town, three boxes of tomatoes came in that needed to be canned. So, with the help of a kind neighbor, I spent the evening coring, Vita Mixing, and bottling just over two dozen quarts of tomato puree.
I had a lot of time to think as I waited for the bottles to cook for 40 minutes. The kitchen was warm from all the steam so I walked outside on the deck and looked down at the kids toys neatly organized against the house.
Our kids participate in a myriad of activities. Some are planned. Most we sign up for on a moments notice. Maybe we should plan out a year’s worth of activities, but we don’t. We give our children the lion’s share of input. We don’t shove anything down their throats.
And yet I wonder how they are faring. I ask myself if they are happy. Are they learning? Are they being challenged? Do they feel safe? Do they feel loved?
Tonight I sat at my computer instant messaging with Luca who is spending the last few days of her summer vacation with her grandparents on the beaches of the Washington/Oregon coast. She told me about how she flew kites and made a fort at the beach. She loves sleeping in a tent and playing “Pain” on grandpa’s Play Station. She was excited to sleep on the mattress with mom tonight.
But before she signed off, she said, “I’m glad we come home tomorrow because I miss you”.
And I thought that in spite of my many shortcomings, we’ll both be OK as long as we can still talk to each other.