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Not Now: How We Miss Out on Life

Are You Postponing Life's Greatest Moments?

I was replying to an important email the other day and my son asked me to get his toy car out from under the bed. I told him that I would do it in a moment. Naturally I carried on with the email and five seconds later he asked me once again to get his car out. I told him, “Not now!” and the look on his face was one of sheer disappointment. It was almost as if I had told him I wasn’t going to buy him food or clothes anymore.

I got the car out for him (ten seconds later it was under the bed again) and I sat down to reply to the email when I stopped and thought to myself, “How long is he going to be at the age where he finds toy cars fascinating? He will only be a child once. And sure, he must learn to be patient and to ask once for something etc. but the innocence of childhood will only be with him for so long. Five or ten years from now, will he still want to tell me about the cat he saw and how it looked like a ‘baby lion’? For how long more will he still want to hold my hand when we are out shopping? How long do I have until he says he does not want to hear a story before going to sleep? How many ‘not nows’ will I use to exclude myself from life’s most beautiful moments?”

But postponing life’s most precious moments is something we do on a regular basis. We do it when we put off calling our spouses or parents in the middle of the day because we are just too busy. We do it when we’re not interested in the daydreams of our children. We do it when we’re typing on our phones instead of savouring our meals. We miss out on the pleasure of drinking a glass of water by having it ‘on the run’. We never see the beauty of the ocean because we never stop our busy days just to sit and watch the waves.

Are we leading lives where every moment is spent calculating how to spend the next moment without actually living the current one? At the end all we will ever have are memories. It is within our power to decide what kind of memories these are. In the end, what will I regret more? Not replying to emails timeously or not playing more with my son?

So I saved my email to the drafts folder, got down on the floor and pulled out a toy car from under a bed to go and race it with a little boy who still makes my heart race every time I hear him call for me. He’ll be this age only once, the email can wait.

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