I have been contemplating a lot about life recently and how fleeting time can be. I often wish I can grab time and hold it still but I constantly feel it slipping through my fingers. Music is a big part of my life and I often get swept up in the emotions and my connection to the lyrics and the sound. Two songs that have haunted me since my childhood have come into my mind recently. Our school family was shattered this year as we lost several individuals connected to our school due to car accidents, including two little girls who were students here. These tragedies make you question why something like this can happen to those who are so young. There is a line in Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World that always hits home to me when I hear it:
“There’s one more kid that will never go to school. Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.”
I always get choked up when Neil sings this because of the lost opportunities for a child who will never get to experience so much of life. We can never make sense of losing young people. All we can do is hug each other a little bit tighter and love each other a little bit more.
“When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then.”
I can’t really explain how the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle have affected me for pretty much my whole life. I mean, how is it possible that I internalized the meaning to that song and held it within me even at a very young age? But I can promise you that I cannot listen to that song without tears welling up in my eyes. I can’t even read the lyrics without getting emotional. As long as I can remember, I made a silent promise to myself that I would never be the Dad in the song, the one who is too busy for his son and then watches his son become exactly like him, too busy for family, too consumed with work.
My wife and I were walking to the park with our two boys the other day. Along the path to the playground, each of the boys took turns doing a different stunt, whether it be climbing on monkey bars or simply walking along the edge of the path. Throughout the walk, Maddox and Jagger went back and forth calling for my attention.
“Daddy, watch this!”
“Did you see that Dad?”
If I tell you they said these things about twenty times in a minute, I would be lying. It would be so easy to get frustrated and exhausted with always having to see what the boys are doing. Luckily though, I caught myself and remembered that these moments don’t last for long. I can remember when Maddox wouldn’t do anything on the baseball field without first looking to make sure that I was watching. But those times aren’t as frequent anymore. They won’t always call for me to watch them so I want to see everything they want to show me.
I connect these stories and songs because I feel compelled to promote the messages of “be here now” and “now is good” at every available opportunity. Our families, our students, and our colleagues need us to appreciate and to be fully present in those moments that we are together. While what we do in education is important, we must also remember that our families are more important. Give of yourselves each day while at school but then go home and engage with your families. They are the motivation to keep on giving. They deserve your undivided attention.
I think this message that a parent emailed me at the end of the school year says it all:
“The years move too fast. I’m still trying to find a way to slow it all down, because it’s so good and so much fun.”
What if we could…appreciate each moment; not worry about the past or the future, but simply treasure the present?