We hold our Family Home Evenings on Friday evenings. Kind of an acknowledgment that, as parents of young children, we have no social life. Things went well with songs and prayer and a treat waiting in the wings for afterward. Then it was time to sit down with daddy while I read a Gospel story to my young children.
We’ve been working our way through the New Testament for Beginning Readers, story by story. As it so happened, this one was on the Last Supper and then Jesus death and resurrection. This close to Easter, the coincidence was too good to pass up. Yet I hesitated. Here I had my oldest daughter age 7, my second daughter age 4, and my son at age two all snuggled up for FHE story time. And here I am about to read them a story about how this wonderful person we’ve been learning about was beaten half to death, had nails hammered through his hands and feet, and was hung until he died.
What would they think about it? I’d always managed to focus on Jesus life up till now and avoid taking about his death. Yet, here we were, and I just had a feeling it was time to wade in. So I did.
My 2 year old son wiggled off my lap soon enough and went to “help mommy” with treats and coloring Easter eggs (he managed to dump most of the yellow dye). But my two daughters sat through the whole thing. Since I couldn’t leave the story with Jesus dead, we moved into the portion about the resurrection as well.
The girls were subdued, but interested as well. I could almost hear the wheels turning in my oldest daughter’s head, but she responded quite well to the story. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t sat down and read this story with her earlier. She is 7 after all, and has certainly heard this story before more than a few times in Primary. The sudden realization of her age and maturity hit me hard. It made me feel guilty for missing so much of her childhood in the rushed blur that young parenthood seems to be.
Guilt. There’s so much of that in young parenting – when you slow down enough to where you have the luxury of feeling guilty, that is. I regret how strict I’ve been with my oldest, and what a wonderful daughter she really has been. I regret how I haven’t noticed that. And she’ll be baptized a little under a year from now… Missed opportunities, lost childhood. I think I understand what Jacob meant when he declared that their lives passed “as it were a dream,” and why those words always seemed so sad to me.
How could I have missed this eventful and action-packed little life that has been going on right under my nose?
So the regrets linger on with me tonight.
But that’s what the Atonement was about. It was about those missed opportunities, those moments of indifference and neglect where I was less of a father than my dear ones deserved. It was, and is, about mending what I have left incomplete.
It is also remembering that I am not the only father who has regretted lost opportunities. In Gethsemane, two millennia ago, another father was torn with regret over the short time granted to his little one. How proud he must have been of his precious son. How much potential he must have seen in him. How eager he must have been to see all the other wonderful things his little boy could do.
I wonder if the God of all the Heavens looked down, and found himself surprised at how fast his son had grown. I wonder if he too regretted that their time had not been longer.