I recently spent an afternoon seeing “Wicked” in Chicago with my oldest daughter, Tori, a high school senior. The Broadway show, about what really happened in Oz “before Dorothy dropped in,” is fabulous.
I loved spending the day with her. But what mattered most to me wasn’t the show, it was the time.
A dear, and very professionally successful, friend recently told me that she might question the value of time spent on many things, but never the time spent with her kids. She had forgotten telling me — years before — that such times were “like making a deposit in the bank” to her. Those words, and her more recent observation, struck a deep and true chord with me.
I sometimes question time spent on professionally successful enterprises, or other personal pursuits, such as an evening out with friends. Was that really time well spent? Was the tradeoff worth it? But I never question the value of time spent with my children on even the most mundane activities. I’m not talking, necessarily, about quality time or teachable moments. Just time.
Over the years I’ve weighed in on many political issues, moral battles and life observations. Those years of writing a weekly column are coming to a close soon. But through it all an increasingly common theme for me is that family has become ever more important.
My job (however imperfectly done) of building into my children is one thing I am confident will have lasting value.
The political and cultural battles of the day will always be with us. I think in my 20s and 30s I some how thought I was fighting battles that had never been waged before.
And yes, family breakdown and government takeovers and moral degradation are serious things. They should be addressed, and I’ll continue to speak about them. But in one form or another, we live in a broken world where these things are part of the fabric, though they may ebb and flow. Over the decades I’ve come to see that — and that’s one of many reasons these battles concern me less.
On the flip side, I sometimes do wonder about my professional arc. Maybe I should have gone to graduate school, maybe I should have attempted more, and earlier in my life, maybe …
Sure, there are other questions and “what ifs?”
But I simply don’t question the time I’ve spent with my children. I don’t mean for a minute that I’m looking to live through them. Or that they somehow reflect all my values, or that they are always easy to live with or that that time is fun, though it often is.
And I’m hardly saying time with our children is the only valuable time there is. Community, church, friends, extended family, work and — of course — our spouses, all rightly have a claim on our time. I’ve written about the intrinsic value of our callings in the workplace, and how our relationship with our spouse should be seen as the most important relationship in any family.
But as I get ready to move to a next chapter, and to communicate in a way other than a weekly newspaper column, I look back on all things I’ve written, all the policy and cultural skirmishes I’ve been involved in, all the things I’ve cared about, and especially all the things I’ve spent time on — both personally and professionally. One thing I’ve spent time on without regretting a minute, is my children. I’m not suggesting there are any new big lessons to that, because I think this is something most people feel, even if they don’t quite put it like my friend did. She was right — spending time with our kids is like making a deposit in the bank.
Processing the truth of her observations gives me clarity as I move on to what comes next in my writing and professional life.
Seeing “Wicked” with my daughter was fabulous. But it’s spending a day with her was priceless. And that puts so much else about life into a really healthy perspective.