Did you know that there’s a law in China that adult children must provide for the financial and spiritual needs of their aging parents, if they are not involved with their ongoing care? Adult children can actually be sued by their aging parents for neglecting them!
I spent an afternoon playing Lego with my son yesterday. For about three hours, we sat on the carpet and built rocket-powered cars, office buildings complete with motorbike jumps and imagined a world where the usual laws of gravity, fear and responsibility did not exist. Whilst we were doing this, I dared not look at my quickly-growing lawn, or thinking about the garden that needed weeding, or that DIY job in the garage that should have been finished
months years ago.
In the last two months, a colleague of mine, a dad, passed away due to a horrible cancer. He left behind a wife and three kids. He would often say ‘no one gets to their deathbed and wishes they spent more time in the office’. I’m sure his wife and children would go to the ends of the earth to waste just a few more minutes with him, paddling on their stand-up paddle board or hanging out at a café.
In the last week, a family member has been diagnosed with a critical illness and is an induced coma. He has a wife and three young children. We are all very hopeful he will pull through, but in these moments, you wish you could spend just a few more minutes wasting time with those you love.
Those who know me know my dad passed away when I was 6. What I wouldn’t give for five more minutes that I could waste with him.
I marvelled at my son, playing with his Lego. I taught him a thing or two about the practicalities of building Lego, and he reminded me a stack of times about how to imagine. He told me ‘I’ll never stop playing with Lego, dad’. I responded, telling him I hope he never forgets how to play Lego, either.
You see, those moments of wasted time with your family are not actually a waste at all. That 30 minutes playing catch. That bike-ride. That afternoon of Lego. The sneaky after-dinner ice-cream dash. Those ‘wasted time’ moments aren’t ‘icing on the cake’ for your family. It’s one of the main ingredients. It’s the chocolate chips in the family brownie. It’s not an optional extra, it’s the sprinkles on the fairy bread.
At this point you’re probably thinking ‘but you don’t know how busy I am’. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together. I don’t. Far from it. I find myself working sometimes 6 days a week, and doing extra things here and there for some extra bucks from time to time. I’m finding though the more I do ‘stuff’, the more time I need to waste with the people I love. It’s a quick game of Uno before dinner. Taking 5 minutes in the morning to help my son with some Lego. Brushing my teeth with the kids before I go to work.
You see, wasting time with your family is never a waste. I know there are times in your life when you do need to spend some time doing that overtime, or that extra bit of study, or spending a bit of time looking after yourself. I know that, and I know that all too well.
I started this blog talking about the Chinese rule of adult kids having to look after their parents. When I’m old, and grey(er!), I don’t want my children to feel obliged to support me, financially or otherwise. I hope that as my children grow and develop, I waste enough time with them now, so that when I’m old, they’ll want to waste time with me. I hope the choices that my kids make won’t be what retirement home to ship me off too. I hope the choices they make will be about how they can waste time with me.