Every time you pick them up to trim their nails. Every time you take them to get their haircut. Every time you have to take a load of clothes to Goodwill or to a friend’s house. Every time you have to buy them a new pair of socks or shoes, be sure to take a moment to take notice.
Notice what has led up to this. Whether it’s a few weeks between nail trimmings or six months for a new pair of bigger shoes—what has happened is a piece of their childhood has elapsed. That time has passed, and it’s gone forever.
Now ask yourself: Did you spend it well? Did you live it? Were you who and what they needed you to be?
Seneca wrote that death isn’t just some inevitable event in the future. Death is happening right now, he says. The time that passes belongs to death, he reminds us. We can’t take it for granted. We only have so many summers at home together with our kids, as we’ve written. Only so many drives to school. Only so many graduation ceremonies. Every time they wear out a coat, every time they outgrow a pair of shoes or a pair of pants. Those moments mark movement. They are the hash marks of the homemade growth chart on the kitchen door frame. They tick off opportunities for time together that never come back. Don’t waste them!
And remember, we all don’t have equal amounts of time. They have more haircuts in their future than we do. They have more pairs of shoes to walk through. You don’t. You are getting old. Which means you have even less of an excuse to waste time, to waste energy on the wrong things, to chase the wrong things, to focus on anything but being the best parent and best human you can be…right now. For them.
For most of history, people constantly wanted to remind themselves of the fragility and the urgency of life. Desks were staged with skulls. Walls were decorated with paintings of skeletons, hour glasses, extinguished candles, wilting tulips. In their pockets they carried memento mori coins and watch keys. These physical manifestations were not to create panic, but priority, humility, urgency, appreciation. Which is why over at Daily Stoic, we created our Memento Mori medallion, pendant, and signet ring. As Marcus Aurelius’s timeless reminder goes, “you could leave life right now.”
P.S. This was originally sent on June 3, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”