Monday, April 28, 2008

On marbled time.

My niece just emailed this to me. It is eerily in line with my post today so I had to include it. Ignore that it is an Internet chain. Just read it and take the message to heart. Marbles aren't just doled out one demand, you know.

Here's Nic's note:
"The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about 'a thousand marbles.' I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say

'Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's 'dance recital' he continued. 'Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.' And that's when he began to explain his theory of a 'thousand marbles.'

'You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

'Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part..

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail', he went on, 'and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays.' 'I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.'

'Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.'

'Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.'

'It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!'

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. 'C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast.' 'What brought this on?' she asked with a smile. 'Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

This little story sums up the philosophy at Chez Dirt & Noise. Mac Daddy is one of the few dads I know who is home from work every single night for dinner with the family. Every. Single. Night. He takes time to read to the boys' classes at school. He chaperones field trips, bakes birthday snacks, and checks the class wish list to ensure the teacher doesn't have to fork out her hard earned money for supplies. Mac Daddy and I share parenting. There's no fiscal versus household division here. Parenting and partnering are practically the same word, n'est pas?

We both know the boys' teachers' names and where the classrooms are. We can both whip up a healthy meal that doesn't involve a menu and speed dial. We can both bathe, dress, cuddle, love, and raise our children. On the flip side, we can both ensure the heat and phone are never disconnected. We can both pay tuition. We can both beef up the 529 plan.

The bottom line is that we prioritize our family. We won't get time back with Bird and Deal. Soon enough they'll be embarrassed for us to hold their hands as we walk into school. They'll go quiet at the dinner table. And sadly, come September, Bird will start school and officially spend more time of his day with someone other than me. So for now, we cherish our family time. It's not a duty. We actually enjoy each other's company, though it's obviously not a sleigh ride all the time.

We spend our Saturdays together. Sometimes it involves inane things like hitting Costco or getting the car washed. Other days we all go hit tennis balls, explore bugs at the science museum, or take a spontaneous road trip to the beach. We view everyday as Saturday and try to inject some family time. I hear too many horror stories from friends and colleagues who don't get to eat dinner with their kids, let alone prepare a healthy meal, miss kissing their children good night, leave in the wee hours while their wee ones are still sleeping, sending a nanny to videotape a school performance.

When Bird and Deal grow up they won't remember (or care) that Daddy (or Mommy, but since I work from home they're well aware that my office is the yellow room at the top of the stairs) had a corner office and worked 70 hours a week. Well, they'll remember the 70 hours but will have no idea who their daddy is. The bottom line is that we don't get time back. Our children will grow up and away in the flash it takes to snap a mental picture. And then poof, it's gone. Our little ones are suddenly taller than us (OK, not a big deal considering I'm five feet tall). Living in another state. Holding hands with a woman who isn't their mother. Not calling on Mother's Day. Life won't wait for us to close the deal, take the call, impress the boss, make the rain.

There's a fine balance to meet our family's needs in the here and now while securing a financially secure future. No one wants an epitaph to read "Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda." Use your marbles wisely.
On marbled time.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this post and your input on time with your kids. I don't want to ever wish I had made more time to spend with my children. I'm like you, I work from home in order to be there for them.

It seems like just yesterday they were babies!

It will be tough letting him go off to school, but it is a lot of fun volunteering and going by to surprise him at lunch!

Anonymous said...

I am trying to keep all this in mind during those times I am ready to put my children on Ebay.

BOSSY said...

Bossy will be right back, after she secures some tissues, a living will, and some marbles.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Amen, amen.