A few months ago, I was driving back home from visiting the place where I grew up. Around dinner time, I stopped in at a spot my family and I vacationed at for many years when I was a child. The whole weekend had been one long nostalgia trip, so I decided to complete the effect by visiting an area where so many happy memories were made when I was younger. The place is called Fort Wilderness. It’s a resort and campground located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World. And as I walked around, every sight and smell and sound was beckoning me back to those blissful days of my youth with my grandparents, parents, brother, and sisters.
As I was walking along, I was thinking about how much I missed those days with my family. And then I started to think about my own family. My wife and my children. I wished they were there with me, that we were on vacation together in this magical place, taking in all of the sights and sounds and smells together.
It was in the middle of this ethereal mix of reminiscing and longing that I overheard a conversation by a father and his toddler son who had just gotten off the boat. It went like this…
Toddler: “Can we go on the wittle park?”
Dad: “Umm, if we have time.”
If you have time? My blood grew warmer. Here I was willing to give anything to have my children next to me in this moment and this guy seemed as if he was taking his son’s presence for granted. I wanted to grab that father. I wanted to put my hands on his upper arms and shake some sense into him. I wanted to get up in his face and plead, “This is the only time! Don’t you see? This is the only time you have! Don’t you know what you’ve got here? These days where children are completely dependent upon you and adore you and think you can do no wrong? These times when all a child wants to do is spend time with you? Don’t you get it? This is the only time you have! Soon they’ll grow up and the last thing they’ll want is to play on a playground with you, “wittle” or otherwise. This is the only time.”
But it wasn’t really that father I wanted to grab and shake and demand that he pay more attention to his children and live in the moment with them while they are small. It was another father. One who looks like me, only about seven years younger. One who said “if we have time” so many times, never realizing the incongruity of the phrase.