I always have the television on when I am home, mostly for the background noise. I was working this morning and the movie, Mamma Mia! came on. Most people won’t admit it, but I for one, kind of like this loosely-woven story wound around some good songs—mostly ABBA. My favorite song in that movie is one I can’t identify by title, however. It’s the song Meryl Streep sings as she’s helping her daughter get dressed for her wedding, contemplating the rapid passing of time.
“School bag in hand, she waves goodbye with an absent-minded smile,” go the words, ending with, “Slippin’ through my fingers all the time.” Sentimental thoughts, but for nearly every parent alive, so true. We get so lost in the day to day tasks of being a parent, that we forget the fact that our children grow more each day into the human beings they are going to become.
I remember worrying about my daughters getting good grades, making friends so they would be happy and achieving things, the evidence of which I could hang on the wall and claim bragging rights. I look back now and realize that sometimes I lost the valuable moments in a flurry of worry about things that in the long run don’t matter. Their grades will be what they want, friends can sometimes be more of a burden than a joy and all those accomplishments are intended to shape their character, not inflate mine.
What I remember best, though, are the times I sat deliberately alone in the bedroom, because I knew one or both of them would show up. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we read books, sometimes we just sat together. I took them out to breakfast on Saturdays, because I liked doing that, and I think at times it made them uneasy, but I remember some real conversations there, too. And how fast it went; those fleeting years when they still believed I knew what I was talking about. And there was me, forgetting that it was ‘slippin’ through my fingers.
Young mothers, frazzled, worried, harried, are told over and over, “Enjoy them, because it goes fast.” Most times they look up from whatever childish disaster they are fielding and nod, but it frequently doesn’t sink in until that child is wearing a mortarboard and gown, or perhaps wedding clothes. Sometimes it’s just when the child heads out on their first adventures alone.
Perhaps that’s why grandparents indulge their grandchildren. They get a second chance to pour too much ketchup into the plate if the child wants it or serve morning Fruit Loops on an upturned laundry basket, because the child wants to watch cartoons in the living room with breakfast. Personally, I send boxes of treats to my grandchildren, not because they need anything, but because I remember being that age and loving to get a package of anything in the mail.
For the most part, children turn out the way they are supposed to, perhaps in spite of us as parents. As parents, however, we have a duty to ourselves to appreciate every moment, when they are small, when they are growing and when they establish lives of their own. I love that song, even if it’s part of a not-so-great movie, because it reminds me that no matter the age, we must not let the time go “slippin’ through our fingers” without savoring the moment. “School bag in hand, she waves goodbye with an absent-minded smile….” Yes, I love that song and I love that thought.