I am a very visual person. I can’t see things until I can actually see them, if that makes any sense. When we were building our house 10 years ago, we would stop by at various stages of completion. On one such visit we arrived to see the floor on top of the basement walls. We walked on the vast flat piece of wood and Jeff would say this is where such-and-such would be and this is where something else would be, but I just couldn’t see it. I think part of the reason was because I was more focused on not having our kids fall off the edge to their death, but mostly it was because I just couldn’t see it. When we returned the next time and we had some walls in place, it all started to come together for me.
A former Children’s Pastor at my church shared a simple visual illustration that involved jars and marbles that has stuck with me for years. The first jar held 936 marbles because it is estimated that parents have about 936 weeks from the day their child is born until the day he or she graduates from high school. We decided to wait to send both of our boys to kindergarten until they were 6 years old so that actually gave us an extra 52 marbles for those two. When I hear numbers like 936 and 988, they seem like such big numbers – I mean they’re both almost 1,000, right? Surely it will seem like forever going through all of those marbles.
Well, I just did a quick check on the app that is kind (or cruel?) enough to track the number of marbles left in each of my kids’ jars. What I discovered is that I am definitely losing my marbles.
So let’s start with the least distressing number first. Eli is my youngest. He is an almost 11-year-old fireball nearing the end of fourth grade. We still have 436 marbles left in his jar. His jar is over half full and 400+ still seems like a pretty high number. I’m still feeling pretty good about this one.
The news gets a little scarier with Rachel. She is wrapping up her freshman year and will be turning 16 this year. Her jar only has 176 marbles in it. That’s not nearly as many as I feel like there should be in there. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that 3-year-old Rachel had to get her head glued together after crashing into my dresser while spinning and telling me she was going to be a ballerina? Not according to her marbles.
Then there’s Isaiah, my almost 18-year-old almost-senior. I think someone tipped over his jar when I was sleeping or something because it only has 72 marbles left in it. That is less than 100! How can that be? And had he been able to sit still for more than 2.3 seconds straight when he was 5 and we had sent him to school then, that number would be even smaller. I don’t even want to think about it.
So since there apparently is nothing I can do to kick this process into reverse, I am left trying to figure out ways to make the remaining marbles as memorable and meaningful as they can be.
Presence over Presents
For the past two Christmases, Jeff and I have given each of the kids presence instead of lots of presents. The first year we got them experiences and one of us went with each of them. Rachel and I had a blast watching the Duke women’s basketball team whoop up on the UNC women in Chapel Hill. Jeff and Eli got to drive some cool equipment at Diggerland. And Jeff and Isaiah probably damaged their hearing a bit seeing The Weeknd in concert.
This past Christmas we decided we would both go with the kids on their adventures. We watched the Celtics beat the Wizards with Rachel. And we experienced our first-ever monster truck show with Eli, which was actually quite enjoyable when wearing ear plugs. Then we kicked it up a notch for Isaiah and took the whole family to New York City for a weekend. We left very early Saturday and got home very late Sunday night and had to jump right into our week early the next morning. But that weekend was definitely the highlight of that marble.
In a few weeks we are driving separately to North Carolina. I need to have Isaiah down there for a college visit early Saturday morning, but Rachel has a softball game at noon Saturday. So Jeff will bring her and Eli down after the game. Some people think we’re crazy driving seven hours separately to get to spend not even 48 hours together at the beach before going our separate ways again. Jeff and Isaiah will head inland for YMCA Nationals and I will return home with Rachel and Eli.
Why would we willingly invite this craziness into our lives? Because of the marbles. When those last marbles are removed and Jeff and I are left with empty jars, I want to know that all of the memories and life lessons in those marbles will remain with our kids forever.
-by Michelle Bell, Marketing Director