Our rough collie, Angel Joy, reminds me of a child. When we meet other dogs along the beach, she wants to show off. When she makes an especially good leap and catch, she holds the ball in her mouth and looks around to see if anyone observed her brilliance. She covets praise.
It reminds me of my son Luke when he was a child. “Mom, look!” Every parent can relate to that. “Mom, did you see that?” “Mom, guess what I did today!”
There were times when I wanted to be left alone to read a good book or do almost anything else than watch the same antics over and over, “Mom, did you see that! Look, Mom! Watch what I can do!”
Yet, as a parent – especially a single parent – I knew how important it was to give my son undivided attention even when he was acting immature and silly and I had other things to do than provide a loving, encouraging audience. How thankful I am now that I usually managed to pretend great interest in his endless somersaults, jumps off high objects, and riding a sky line down from a tree to the ground – over and over and over.
Luke graduated from earth to heaven at age 37, and I will never again have the chance to watch him, encourage him, praise him. He’s lost to me in this life.
Before Luke’s death, it was the same thing during phone calls – but it was Luke praising his daughter. “Mom, she’s so smart. I’m so proud of this girl.” “Let me tell you what she did today!” “She’s an angel!” She’s so smart and beautiful and brave.” “She can rock climb better than me.” “Let me tell you, that girl is just awesome and amazing!”
Dulcinea was only ten when she lost her daddy, but she can hold tightly to the memories of her father’s love for her and praise of her. Never did Luke speak one critical, angry or disparaging word about his daughter – my granddaughter. Dulcinea will never have to question whether or not her daddy loved her and was proud of her. She knows.
I challenge parents to watch your children at every opportunity – even if they are performing the same monotonous “trick” over and over to what seems like infinity. It isn’t. Your investment of time in your children will never leave you with regrets when God repossesses His loan. Children are gifts from God and they are only on loan to their parents.
Children are the only thing we have on this earth that will join us in Heaven. Give them what they need more than money, toys, or electronics – your time and love.
Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976 – Nov. 17, 2013, with daughter Dulcinea
Books by Stephanie Parker McKean: