Take Your Kids to the Park

Today was one of those days that we’ll dream about in the middle of January. Sunny, mid-seventies, only some gorgeous, puffy cumulus clouds in the sky. The word perfect was invented for days like this.

And, of course, I had to spend the day at work. Damnit!

12043162_10207422055807815_8464045918388095977_n2However, when the kids got home from school my wife had the presence of mind to take them to the park. These days are always nice, but in late September, when the chill of autumn air permeates the night, and the first frost is just around the corner, days like this should be enjoyed even more.

They were back from the park when I got home from work. My daughter was drawing a picture for me. One son was working on homework, the other finishing his dinner. “We had so much fun!” my four-year-old daughter told me when I asked her about the park.

My older son spent the rest of the evening working on homework that he put off until the last minute. When he complained that it was time for bed shortly after he finished, my wife reminded him that they’d spent a long time at the park and he’d already had plenty of fun.

At this time of year some fun at the park comes before getting homework done. Maybe that’s not the best parenting, but who cares? The homework’s going to be there later. A day like today might not be.

Fellow ChicagoNow blogger Mary Tyler Mom devotes all of September to childhood cancer awareness. She lost her daughter, Donna, to cancer. Throughout the month she reposts a series of posts she wrote chronicling Donna’s cancer journey.

On her Facebook page, today’s post included the following: ‘I said to her, "You know, Donna, I've noticed a lot lately that you don't always listen to me. I have to repeat myself and it's frustrating." Her response, quick as a whip, was, "You know, Mama, I want to go to the park every day and sometimes it rains."

If you can take your kids to the park, take them.’

Other than Donna’s uncommonly genius retort, the beauty of that post is the advice at the end: If you can take your kids to the park, take them.
Good God, is there any advice more simple, yet more profound than that?

At the surface it’s such a simple idea. But if you think about it for a moment, the weight of such an idea is impressive.

“If you can…” That phrase means one thing to most people, but it means something entirely different to someone whose child has died from cancer. Embedded in those three words is the idea that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. “If you can…” It might as well say, “If you can—and if you can you should be thankful—…”

“If you can…” then count your blessings, because there’s a whole bunch of people who can’t.

And the rest of that piece of advice, “take them to the park, take them,” reminds us to engage with our kids.

My wife took our kids to the park because they like to go to the park and they like to spend time with her. At some point in the not-too-distant future, my kids aren’t going to be so gung-ho about going to the park. They’re not going to enjoy the walk, the wide-open green space, the playground, the small pond and the fish and turtles that inhabit it. At some point going to the park with their mom is going to be a chore.

But until then, we need to take our kids to the park. Spend time with them. There’s no substitute for spending time with our kids. No presents can make up for hours and minutes. And lest you think that time spent with your children isn’t important, just try not spending time with them and see how they turn out. I bet you won’t like it.

I don’t mean to boil all of this down to parenting advice. It’s not parenting advice. It’s life advice.

“If you can…”

All of us can think of someone that we took for granted before, and for whom “If you can” has turned into “Now I can’t.” And is there anything sadder than that?
So “If you can…” then you absolutely should.

Because someday it will be too late to take them to the park.

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