Red Light Wake Up Call

judehockey “We’re never going to get there and I’m going to be late again. Why aren’t we moving?”

He is wedged into my small backseat, his lanky, toothpick frame bulging with padding and hard plates beneath his hockey jersey. I am too tired and frustrated to try to explain, yet again, why I can’t make red lights turn green.

Moments earlier, I had shoved my bewildered daughter out of the car and into church for choir practice. I noticed, too late, the red ring around her mouth from her burned pizza dinner. The burned pizza was because the dog had a diarrhea attack that demanded an impromptu bath-by-garden-hose. The garden hose bath sprayed my work pants with water and poop.

‘I hate choir. I hate hockey. I hate diarrhea dogs and burned pizza and poop covered pants. I hate red lights and 11 year old boys who whine about red lights. I hate being tired all the time. This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for the movie house life where moms bake cookies and dads ruffle their childrens’ hair while playing an impromptu game of good natured basketball in the driveway.’

 We never do those things. We aren’t those people. Why aren’t we those people? I so want to be those people.

We sit through three changes of the light. We are still 15 cars back. My son was right.

I turn around to tell him we will be late, and it’s one of those crackle zap moments. He looks 18, about to unfold his long legs out of my car and out of my life.


“You are growing up so fast.” My heart physically aches, a phenomenon that coincided with his birth.

“I don’t want to grow up.”

He has said this a lot lately. How he thinks being an adult stinks. I worry it’s because he sees his frantic,worried, overworked mother chasing her tail every day, forgetting permission slips and parent reader and don’t even think about eating lunch with him at school.

I have been selling him on adulthood. You get to drive! You get to date girls! Did I mention you get to drive!?

He will not be convinced.

“I wish I knew what heaven was like so I could be prepared for it.”

These are our conversations. They veer wildly left and right and at some point topple over the cliff and into the depths below. It is only recently that I learned about his preoccupation with heaven. I wrote about why he releases all of his balloons, here. 

“I wish I knew what heaven was like, too.”

“What I hope is that when we get there, we all get to go back to being children. You and daddy, too.”

“But then we’d be kids, like you.”

He nods, his eyes filled with a sort of wistful wisdom reserved for old men, not 11 year old boys.

I am a scarcity expert. I should be a scarcity explorer because I can find it anywhere. There is no room for scarcity in childhood.

Childhood is abundance, living in the moment, enjoying it for what it is until the next moment arrives. Magic is real and wonder is guaranteed.

These things get lost in jobs and burned pizzas and dogs with diarrhea. They get lost in bills and illness and divorce and pain. Wonder and magic get shoved to the corners of our lives, in some cases extinguished altogether.

Since when did growing up mean denying ourselves the best parts of our existence that are actually free? The things that can actually heal our human pain and fulfill our deepest needs.

In the span of a single minute I see him grown up and he is quietly urging me back to bliss of childhood.

He continues to be the greatest teacher of my life.

The car behind us honks. The light is green.

We go, two kids on our way to hockey.



See the world as if for the first time; see it through the eyes of a child, and you will suddenly find that you are free. – Deepak Chopra

If we all could see the world through the eyes of a child, we would see the magic in everything. – Chee Vai Tang




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6 comments on “Red Light Wake Up Call
  1. Nicole says:

    You are a great storyteller and an inspiration. Glad our paths have crossed.

  2. Kimberly Duckworth says:

    Beautiful as always! He needs to study philosophy as he is wise beyond his years! I am reading this after returning from my middle sons graduation and time passes much too quickly

  3. Ingrid says:

    Beautiful and true. The most important real lessons I’ve needed to learn were reflected in my children’s faces. Your story squeezed my heart today.

    • Philip J says:

      And the path continues as you progress through adolescence: when a crazy bird breaks your custom glass front door (actually an errant shot during indoor hockey) or the most recent episode when your cable is cut when “Thor” uses an ax to fend off Loki’s minions in the garden. The good news is we are top of the class when it comes to imagination! We’ll work on the moderation…all in good time.

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