The Armstrong Family Circus

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A moment of clarity

Tuesday August 18th 2009

by Paul Armstrong

Too much light to deny


The Bible says that God is our Father, an analogy that only a parent can fully appreciate. Every now and then God gives you a tiny glimpse at the overall importance of your life, your role, your purpose — and that moment will bring you to your knees. As a father I had a distrinct moment of clarity the other night, not merely the realization that time escapes us, but feeling the rush as time flies.


Its not often that I feel this sense of immediacy and eternity, but then again I shouldn't expect them to be a regular ocurance (because I think it would emotionally devistate me). Its easy to get so jagged to the relationship you have with the children — the contempt that familiarity breeds — that its easy to overlook the vital importance of the very small moments we get to truly impact them, before those moments are gone.


The typical bed time routine involves me giving Eliott a kiss on the head, rubbing his back and saying a quick (and honestly, a purposeless and vague) prayer and say good night. Every so often Elliott will ask, "Want to lie in bed with me a for little bit?", to which I usually reply "No, that's ok I have stuff to do downstairs" — when he was four we often laid in bed with him to help him settle down. He would grab our necks with his little fingers and dig and pull as he sucked his thumb and feel fast asleep.


For some reason I said "Ok" and laid on the bed next to him. He grabbed my hand and gave a gentle squeeze. In that moment I remembered how small his hands once were. How long ago that seemed. How easily I had forgotten and how quickly four years vanishes. The squeeze that a father understands as both affection and protection. And there I laid, holding my son, tears in my eyes, realizng that this too will be gone and forgotten in the pace of life.


Soon he will no longer ask me if I want to lie in his bed. No longer will he hold my hand and give it a squeeze. No longer will I be the protector and provider. Our stories will diverge and separate. So for that moment I drank it in, and kissed his cheek until he feel fast asleep.







Comments for "A moment of clarity"

Paul, thanks for this post.

I'm feeling particularly awful regarding the way bedtime went down last night at my house. We have a similar bedtime routine, and all too often, I rush through stories and prayers and off to the computer or the tv for some form of bland, useless entertainment.

Last night, we'd stayed up later - Abbie (my oldest child, my daughter) watching a movie and the boys and I on the floor playing Lego. It was 10, and I needed to get some sleep. Long story short, I ended up rushing them off to bed, end up chastising Abbie for messing with Paul (our youngest) and getting him riled up, but my frustration meter was pretty high since they'd taken forever to get ready for bed, so the boys ended up falling asleep to the sounds of Daddy yelling.

There are times when I just lay there and take it all in. Last night, I was the antithesis of that, and I've got some pretty serious conviction hanging around this morning. I've got to get that right with them tonight.

Thank God that His mercies are new every morning.


I can't tell you how many times our bedtime ritual is full of reprimanding, counting, and frustration. I think that's part of being a parent, you have a duty and your kids (being human as they are) will do all they can consciously and unconsciously to challenge that authority (maybe to see what they can get away with, to see what you'll stand up for, etc). It's hard to not to feel like a failure in those moments. I know I feel that often. God always shows us his mercy. On the flipside, imagine how frustrated God must get with us as we do the same thing — don't listen to him, thwart his authority, etc?

Absolutely! How many times has He told me something and I just damn near refuse to listen. But he handles it so much better than we do.

A friend at work - after reading this post - told me about his night last night. He was alone with his son while his wife was out. He was rushing through all the things he had to do, including dinner, when his son said, "Papa, let's eat together. Wait for me." Made me wonder how many times they drop hints or even tell us directly what they need at that time and we just fail to slow down, listen and respond.

Good food for thought today, Paul. Thanks.

Great post, and an absolutely superb photo of your son.

this (amongst other things) is one of the reasons I'm looking forward to being a father soon.

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