When we had our first child, we thoughtfully created a night-time routine to help him get to sleep. It started with a bath, and then we would read a few books to him, and finally, we would end with a song. It worked like a charm, and, over time, it became something he looked forward to every night. To the point that he would be saddened if we had to ever skip it for some reason.
As we grew our family, we continued this routine and all 3 of our kids had become accustomed to it. It was even hard for us, as parents, when one of them would pick one of us over the other to read or sing to them. It was as much an expectation as it was a privilege — to be able to do the routine with our kids. Well, this was the case until tonight — when my eldest son said, “Dad, you know, you don’t need to sing to me any more”.
He said this to me right when I was about half way through the song. The one I had been singing to him for years. I was taken back in that moment, “No more songs? You mean you don’t want me to sing to you any more?”
“No dad, but you can finish this song and it will be the last one. You still have my brother and sister to sing to though” he said, almost as though he was trying to comfort me.
I guess it was his time and his way of telling me “I’m good dad. You did a fine job with me and keep doing it with my siblings — they still need you and mom”. Sure, I mean he is eight years old and I probably could have stopped this routine a few years ago. But, I too —not so secretly anymore— got as much comfort out of it as he did. It was our time to bond and our time to be together. And now, it was time to close this chapter and to start a new one. New routines and rituals and new ways of bonding and being together.
But there is more…
In that same moment —when he told me that he didn’t need me to sing to him— I noticed that I wasn’t necessarily putting everything into the singing. And that I was more doing it as an act of “ticking the box” rather than truly singing and being there with him. Truth be told, there were many times when I would even begrudgingly sing to him because I was upset about something he had done and didn’t think he was “deserving” of my singing at those times. But when he interrupted me to tell me that he didn’t need me to sing anymore, I became very aware of my lack of presence and my lack of energy and enthusiasm. Here I was, doing a shitty job of “singing” to him and not knowing that this would be the very last time I would get this privilege. The privilege to be with him and put him to sleep in this way. I wasn’t giving it the respect that it deserved and was merely going through the motions.
While that moment was sad, in that our routine was no longer needed, I also became reacquainted with the fact that our time on this earth is precious and that, one day, our time will come. When we will no longer be here to enjoy it and no longer able to give and create joy for others. For me, this experience with my son was a soft awakening. It was a reminder for me to stop doing things in a half-assed manner. And, instead, to start putting everything into what I do — especially when it’s for people I love. Because that’s what I stand for. I stand for showing up fully with an open heart and a willingness to go all in. But for me to do that, my intention needs to be clear. It needs to be focused on connection rather than getting something done. To be focused on being rather than doing. But I had forgotten. Or maybe, I had taken advantage of the privilege. Because I always assumed there would be a next time. Because I never knew when my last encore would be. Lucky for me, I still have two kids to practice this with. To sing with all my heart. To express myself fully. To be present for every moment. Because everything changes in a moment. Don’t let yours pass you by like it did for me.