The other day, during a break at school where I was working as a substitute teacher, I got a call from my sixth grade son Gus, who was home from school as he had had three teeth removed. My husband took him as I had to work, and I was feeling really badly that I had not been able to take him.
“Hi sweetheart,” I said, and asked him how his mouth was feeling. “Good,” he said with his standard answer. He does not like to complain no matter what.
My son is not one to “just call” to say hello, and I had a feeling this call was not just for fun.
“So, what’s going on?” I ask.
“I want to go get my new double three-ring zipper binder today. I found it at Office Depot and Office Max. They have two in stock at the Tualatin Office Depot and three at the Milwaukie one and three at the Happy Valley Office Max.
The closest store of the ones he listed was about 15 to 20 minutes away, during rush hour traffic. On a day when I had a commitment later in the evening.
And, my husband literally works within minutes of that Office Max store, I thought to myself, and practically speaking we could have called him to ask him to pick up the notebook. That made the most logical sense.
That would have saved gas.
That would have saved money.
That would have saved the environment.
That would have saved time.
That would have saved me stress.
But, the experience would have been missing.
When I got home, my son had not forgotten the double three-ring zipper binder with extra folder. So, I asked him to call the store in advance to see if they had the exact notebook he was looking for. I wanted to at least be somewhat practical.
Maybe I was feeling badly because I had to work while he had his three teeth removed that day, or maybe it was just so endearing to see how important this three-ring-double-zipped binder was to him.
I just felt such a prompting to go. Forget the schedule. Forget what I had to do later. Forget the time.
So, I said to my 11-year-old, “Hey, get your stuff, put on your shoes, grab your jacket. We are going to Office Max to get your three-ring-double-zipper binder
You just cannot believe how excited my sixth grader was to go.
In the car he said, “Mom, it has an extra pocket on the outside. And mom, it has two sets of those three rings for notebook paper. And Mom, it has an extra zipper area for different subjects. And Mom, it comes in blue and red and black. I like the blue but I will decide when we get there on what color I want.”
You’d think it was Christmas.
We walked into Office Max and meandered toward the aisle with the notebooks and binders. He scurried ahead of me and found where the goods were. You’d think he had won the lottery when he found them.
“Here they are, Mom. They have three colors, blue, red, black,” he tells me as he picks each of them up and turns them over. His eyes focus on the blue one as he begins to unzip it to see all the bells and whistles this notebook has.
“Look, see the extra three rings for paper. My other zipper binder has only one section. And, look here’s another compartment on the other side of the binder,” he carefully demonstrates as he turns the binder over.
After we purchased the binder and got home, we told my husband, Gus’s dad, where we were and that we got the binder.
And, my husband’s natural, practical response was, “But, I work minutes from that Office Max and I could have picked it up for you.”
Gus responds quite confidently, “But, I wanted to go myself.”
And, I thought, and later told my husband, that it is about the experience for the kid.
And for me.
The time that Gus and I had together, the sharing of something so small, purchasing a three-ring-zippered binder, but something that meant so much to my little one. On a day that he had three teeth removed.
I believe we need to as parents to value and treasure the experience more than just the practicality of everything. It’s not always the most time-efficient, practical path that makes the most sense that matters.
It’s about the experience. And, there is no way to measure that.
I remember hearing a couple of moms share with me that they get their family’s yearly Christmas trees sans kids. They drive to a tree lot while their kids are at school or at sports, and purchase the tree. Another mom told me that she decorates her family’s Christmas tree alone, while they kids are at friends’ houses or other places.
“It’s just easier,” the moms have told me. Or they’ve said, “The kids are so busy and they tell me that they do not care anyway. It’s a lot less hassle this way anyway.”
And, I wonder to myself, what about the experience? For our family, it is about the experience of getting our tree as a family. Then decorating it together while listening to Christmas music.
The other day at the grocery store, a lady was in the aisle with her twins in her cart. The twins were about 3-years-old. As a mom of twins myself, I just smiled to myself thinking how I remember those years shopping with my kids.
This mom at the grocery store was walking down each aisle and before I even saw this mom with her twins, I heard this mom with her twins. The twins were so inquisitive about everything. They asked questions, they pointed, they squealed in delight when they saw something they wanted. “Captain Crunch, Mommy. Look it’s Captain Crunch,” one of the 3-year-olds exclaimed loudly.
“Mommy, there are the Gold Fish. Mommy, can we get Gold Fishes? “And, Mommy, look, pop tarts, mom Gushers. I love Gushers. Mommy, can we get some Gushers. They had gushers at preschool.”
The mom was so patient in responding to her active twins as the sound level increased with each new item her kids wanted to purchase.
She finally said at one point, very patiently I might add, “Shh, not so loud, okay.”
In fact, she said this about the time I was heading down the same aisle she was in. Perhaps her comment was to show consideration of other people in the store at the time.
I wanted to acknowledge her, to somehow make her feel that it was okay. That her kids were okay. That she was okay.
“So, are they twins?” I ask, trying to start a conversation with what was of course the obvious.
The mom replied to me, yes, as we both looked at her kids who were scanning the next items they were going to ask their mom about.
I say, oh, they are so cute. And then I tell her I have twins and that they are 17-years-old now, and that having twins is so much fun and so crazy and wild and so amazing.
And then I tell her that I did the same thing, bring my twins to the grocery store with me.
And, that even though some people told me I should not bring my young kids to the grocery store, that it would be easier for them to stay home with their dad or with a friend, I did it anyway. Because I wanted them to have the experience with me, to see things we were buying and to help decide what items we needed. And, I as a parent wanted to watch my kids’ reaction to things and I wanted to see what interested them and what intrigued them and what gave them pause.
The mom wasn’t so sure at that exact moment but thanked me for that comment as I moved on to the next aisle.
Sure, it can be easier to leave the kids at home and it can be easier to just do things for our kids, but there are no short cuts to experiencing life.
No matter how big or small.