From the book "Finding Liberty":
When my daughter Sarah was a baby, she had just enough energy to make it to lunchtime. There was no “gentle warning tone” when her gas gauge neared empty, just a predictable yet sudden moment - somewhere between noon and 1 o’clock - when her eyes would screw shut, her mouth would open wide, and a piercing wail of fatigue would start to vent from deep within her.
On Saturdays, this was my call to action. I would dutifully scoop up my baby girl into my arms, retire to the darkened bedroom, and begin the ritual of her nap.
Holding her little body to my chest, I would pace the confines of the bedroom with a slow, rocking gait. I would quietly sing her a lullaby - usually the same one over and over – until her insistent crying gradually abated to the gentle hitches of soft, muffled sobs. As the fight continued to leave her body, I would stop singing the lullaby and begin humming it instead, the vibrations from my chest adding their own chorus to an already sleepy symphony.
When I sensed that she was all but played out, I would lay her on the bed. She would wake up, of course, but that was expected, so just as soon as her head was on the pillow I would quickly lie down beside her. At this point, she would no longer have the energy to actively contest the inevitable, but her droopy eyelids would continue to battle gravity and resist the siren song of sleep for as long as they were able.
I knew from experience that if I just remained there with her, she would be fast asleep in 10 or 15 minutes. I also knew that after those same 10 or 15 minutes of lying next to her warm little body and breathing in her sweet baby perfume, I would be asleep too, and my Saturday would suddenly have a great big hole in it.
I really couldn’t complain. For 5 days each week I was not there at all to assist my wife with the children, and during every night of the week I simply was not endowed with the necessary equipment to help out even if I had wanted to (and I can promise you that during those nights I had absolutely no desire to be of any assistance whatsoever). So if the weekend gave me the opportunity to provide my wife with a little relief, it should not have bothered me at all. But it still did. Especially on Saturdays.
Sundays were already kind of a “scratch” anyway. Church in the morning, lunch, maybe a football game in the afternoon; then dinner, baths, and everyone to bed early in preparation for Monday morning. But Saturdays . . . well, those hurt a little.
Saturday was the one day that was open to all possibilities, and it was the one day that I had available to get accomplished whatever it was that I needed to do. And there was always so much to do. The grass needed to be cut. The cars needed to be washed. I needed to make some headway into the pile of things that had broken during the week. Half a dozen unfinished projects begged for attention. The list seemed almost endless, and that was just the “preventive maintenance” I needed to do to keep from falling behind further than I already was. New projects? Something just for fun? Forget it.
So when I would hear Sarah get fussy on Saturday afternoon I would almost always feel a touch of frustration coupled with a vague sense of loss. I would think of those things that I would not be able to do simply because my daughter needed to take a nap, and who, in doing so, would inadvertently pull her daddy into the same land of blissful slumber regardless of how hard he tried not to go. Once again, a Saturday with almost unlimited potential would be gutted.
Some things will always be, but some things will never be again. 10 years have now passed. The grass still needs to be cut, the cars still need to be washed, and I still have a half dozen projects that need my attention, but my little girl doesn’t take naps with her daddy anymore.
Sarah is 11 now, and the vague sense of loss that I feel at this point in my life is one of knowing that my baby girl will never be a baby again. She has girlfriends that occupy her time now. She has private talks with her mother that I am not privy to. She still loves her daddy, but she isn’t quite as dependant on him as she used to be.
My little girl plays softball now, and through some twist of fate I somehow got roped into being an assistant coach for her team, even though I know nothing about coaching. It’s been a rude awakening for me to learn how much time being a coach will carve out of each week. For 3 months now we’ve had practice after practice and game after game in a seemingly endless buffet of sweat, dust, sunburn, bruises, and sore muscles. Sometimes it seems as if every time I turn around I’m getting ready to head back out to the ballpark. I admit, it’s been a little frustrating at times.
But then I look at my daughter; so excited as she runs out onto the field, so determined as she stands in the batter’s box, so happy as she chants with her teammates in the dugout. And I am here with her. Suddenly, my heart swells with joy as any & all regrets of what will not be are washed away by the realization of what is, and I am able to fully appreciate these fleeting moments in time simply for what they are.
There are some things I can no longer do with my daughter, but this is something that I can do with her - today - and I intend to soak up every single minute of it while I still have the chance.
Because some things will never be again.