As they grow older, our teens have developed a pretty good sense of the value of money.
But have they learned the value of other precious things in life? What about relationships – with God and other people? What about time?
Grey has been slow to appreciate the value of time, perhaps because he has a lot of excess of it. He’s got school, and homework, and pep band, and church, and chores, but that’s about it. The rest is pleasure reading, Youtube, video games, and hanging with friends.
Naturally, he assumes everyone else’s time is as expendable as his.
I’m not a high-powered exec who works 80-hour weeks, and I don’t have that many obligations outside work either. I don’t have a special needs child or an Alzheimer parent.
But I hate to waste time, because I know life is short. The average human has about 26,000 days to live. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider that most of the hours in those days are chewed up by sleep and work, then there really isn’t so much left.
Grey has a severe aversion to being late to something, which is an admirable quality, although not one shared by me. I like to be on time, but not a moment early. It makes me feel like I’m being the best steward of time, even though I recognize that being early can facilitate casual conversations and relationship building.
Since Grey is pre-driver’s license, Nora and I serve as his Uber service. I don’t have any problem dropping him off early someplace, which is what he insists:
Grey: “Don’t forget I have pep band on Saturday.”
Me: “I’m on it. Report time is 11 AM right?”
Grey: “Yes, but I want to be there at 10:45.”
Me: “OK, no problem.”
We pull into his school’s parking lot at exactly 10:45. I congratulate myself on being so timely, despite the knowledge that he doesn’t really have to be there then.
“See you later big guy,” I say, reaching for a farewell fist bump.
“The director’s not here, so we’re going to have to wait,” he replies.
I feel like pushing him out the door anyway, but I’m too much of a softie. So we sit and wait…and wait…and wait. I’m in no mood to chat, so I fiddle with my phone, checking the weather, then sync my Fitbit, then check the news, then peruse my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.
Finally, at 11:05, the director saunters around the corner and unlocks the school. Grey finally exits the car, and I actually squeal the tires a bit as I leave the lot. That’s 20 minutes of my life that I can’t get back.
Many hours later, after the game, I drive back to school and pick him up. I don’t believe in holding grudges, because I think they are toxic and displace other, healthier thoughts and feelings in your brain. That doesn’t mean I forget things though either.
Grey I’m sure has no such memory of the earlier time waste. He has others things on his mind:
“Dad, we need to go now to get my hair colored.”
This isn’t the first time he’s brought this up, but the urgency level has suddenly been turned up three notches. When Grey gets into his mind that he needs to do something, it gnaws at him until he abandons it or accomplishes it. And apparently the gnawing was growing uncomfortable.
“Grey, I told you you need to find a place, and check their hours and cost. Have you done that?”
“Totally,” he insists. “It’s on York Road and open until 6 PM. Let’s go!”
I look at my watch. It’s 4:15.
“Umm, we’re not driving there until we talk to them,” I reply. “Maybe they’re all booked up.”
“Let’s just drive there, I don’t think it will be a problem.” Grey hates talking to strangers.
I can easily visualize in my head the drive there, the failure to secure a stylist, and the subsequent drive home. No sweat for Grey, but the potential waste of time and gas gives me hives.
“No, I’m not going anywhere without talking to them,” I reiterate.
We’re at an impasse and Grey just glares at me. A half minute passes in silence.
“Ok, let’s call, but you have to talk,” says Grey, looking away.
I try to decide whether that’s a compromise, or whether he is squirming out of a responsibility. Figuring a joint call is about as far as he’ll go, I acquiesce.
Sitting at a traffic light, Grey dials up the salon on my phone. It is connected by Bluetooth to the Scion’s sound system, so that both of us can talk and listen.
“Hello, [Whatever] Salon.” I can’t remember the name of the place.
“Hi,” I say merrily, modeling to Grey how it’s done. “I wanted to see if we could stop in for a coloring.”
“Sure, we can get that gray out of your hair no problem,” she purrs.
“Haha, no, I’m talking about a…fun color.”
“Oh,” she says, “we can do that too.” I’m trying to decide whether her tone has taken on a judgmental hue – whether she thinks a 40-something man is too old for a wild color.
“Great, can we come by now?”
“Oh no, we close at six, you’ll have to make an appointment.”
I glare at Grey, but he’s immune to shame. “OK, thank you, we’ll be in touch.”
Making a beeline for home now, I ask Grey, “Well, did you learn anything from this?”
“Yeah, it’s not just me who thinks your old – the hair woman does too.”
I laugh nervously, glancing in the rear-view mirror to see if there’s more than a hint of gray in the reflection.