Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rite of Passage

For nearly as long as I can remember, I have been the primary driver for my son’s guitar lessons. Yes, starting back when was 9-years-old, I faithfully drove him to his lessons every single week, ensuring that I would not stay late at work on Friday evenings, so that I could beat the traffic home in the one hour drive, just in time to race up to my son’s bedroom, listen to the lesson and perhaps make a few suggestions, and then fly to the car to make the 25-minute drive to the lesson.

After a few years, we added Art lessons on Saturday mornings, so we changed his guitar lessons to Saturday afternoons. Then, irrespective of the “tired” factor from the busy week, we would rise around 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, drive one hour to the 3-hour Art lesson (he studied Art while I caught up on work-related projects), stop at a new restaurant every Saturday, run a few errands, and then drive one-hour to his guitar lesson. We would finally get home between 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. to start the weekend around the house (As you might have guessed, our yard did not look all that terrific for a few years!!).

For about 9 years, nearly 50 days per year, for a total of about 450 individual trips of:
1) Beating traffic
2) Nearly breaking the sound barrier
3) Listening to my son’s last-minute attempts to improve his lesson material
4) Nearly breaking the sound barrier again to get him to his lessons (by the way, for my Law Enforcement friends, the “sound barrier” thing is an exaggeration – placed here solely for purposes of humor!!)

Yes, my schedule had to be grossly adjusted to fit my son’s Art and guitar lessons. Although my regular work schedule is already quite time-consuming, the extra driving to get him to his lessons left little time for relaxation.

Of course, as you might have guessed, I also used the time alone with my son to discuss a myriad of topics in life, including friends, school, future goals, his plans, etc. Yes, as busy as life was for all of those years, I would not trade those days for anything, as they allowed the two of us to spend many hours together with focused time – time that I heavily utilized to influence him toward making good and positive decisions in life.

I have often been asked how I was able to sustain those Fridays and Saturdays, week after week, for all of those years, seemingly driving a million miles a week to get my son to his lessons. From a physical standpoint, I have no clue. I simply started the car and we took off. From an emotional or parental standpoint, my answer is simple: How could I NOT have spent all of those years driving my son to his lessons?

Yes, as tiring as the driving came to be, not to mention the stress of rushing around, I realized that the weeks, hours, and years provided valuable time for us to be together. I also realized that it was a relatively short window of opportunity to be together. No matter how busy we got during the week, I could always count on several hours on Fridays or Saturdays to spend with my son to ensure that he was staying on the straight and narrow track of life.

And, sure enough, the RITE OF PASSAGE came last week. My son came in possession of the two items that will make any dad cringe …… a driver’s license and a car! Ouch!!

The possession of the license and keys led to the following RITE OF PASSAGE: On Saturday morning, as it was time to leave for his guitar lesson, my son loaded his guitar in the car, got in, started the car, and drove away to his lesson ….. while his favorite dad stood in the open doorway and waved good-bye – suddenly realizing that the 9-year window of opportunity had instantly closed. BAM!

Yes, the days of spending major drive time with my son while driving him to his lessons are now gone, probably forever. But, the memories of our discussions, sometimes serious and sometimes filled with laughter, will live with both of us forever!

As I have told parents over the years, PLEASE spend as much time with your kids as possible, especially when they are young and your influence is the strongest. Your children are looking to you for leadership, nurturing, love, and care, the types of which must be provided by you, so that they’re not provided by somebody else, such as a nefarious or ill-willed individual.

Spend time with your kids, drive them to where they need to go, go without sleep, etc. There will be plenty of time to rest on future Saturday mornings as they drive themselves off to a lesson, leaving you behind to sit and deal with a multitude of emotions, including sadness with the instant realization that a window has closed, but joy when you realize that you did your best and that you never shortchanged your children!

So, how about you? Do you spend a lot of time with your kids – sometimes to the point where you make sacrifices that you never dreamed that you would make? If so, write back and tell me about it – and keep doing it – it will pay off in the future!!

Paul W. Reeves

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