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Commentary: Happy New Year -- One Moment at a Time

By John Craik

Buffalo, NY – My nine-year-old son doesn't want me to tuck him in at bedtime any more. The beginning of the new year seems like a good time to think about that.

If you're like me, you've spent a good part of the last couple of weeks thinking ahead, planning, resolving and worrying and fretting about the next 360 or so days. We all do it to varying degrees, and in the process we lose something - perhaps a lot, that will take place at any given moment.

What we forget to do is to live in and appreciate the present, I know that's a clich , but it is only a clich because it is spoken of so often, and realized so rarely.

Back to my son . . .

My wife Nancy and I had been taking turns tucking my son into bed since he was born, and we started to alternate between our two children when my daughter was born three years later. The nightly ritual typically involves reading, talking, giggling, (often some arguing and pestering as well) concluded with some hugging and snuggling. This could take as long as 30 minutes.

I know, our routine might sound like fun, but when you're dead tired and all you want to do is drift off to sleep yourself, watch "Law and Order" or have some time to read a book without illustrations, that 30 minutes seems like a drag. Nancy and I tried (with some success) to keep this "chore" in perspective. We knew that these moments, as tiring as they could be, were special and were not subject to make up times at later dates.

"Some day he won't want to hug and snuggle with us at bedtime," we'd remind each other.

"Some day" arrived last Tuesday night. It's the end of an era.

Now, I've loved every stage of my kids' lives, but I think fathers and sons have something really special, even magical for about a two year period.

Right around the time my son turned 7 he grew into sports nut -- big, strong and athletic enough so that we could play catch with a baseball, toss around a football, shoot hoops in the driveway and watch sports together almost as peers.

The "magic" comes from the fact that he was a jock by day, but he still enjoyed snuggling and hugging at night - talk about the best of both worlds.

"Someday he won't want to hug and snuggle with us at bedtime," we reminded each other. Thank God we knew that while he still did.

The loss (and that's what it is) of this routine reminds me of a wonderful spring day when I was in college 19 years ago. I was at a happy hour party for graduating seniors with two of my best friends, when one asked, "do you know the difference between us and the rest of the people here?" My first thought "we've had more to drink" didn't seem like the answer he was looking for, so I grunted, "nope, what's the difference?" He told me that "we know how good we have it right now, and everyone else can't wait to graduate and get on with their lives."

"Some day we won't be able to have 8 beers before lunch on a Tuesday," has turned into "someday he won't want to hug and snuggle with us at bedtime."

Our daughter still demands the reading, giggling, hugging and snuggling routine and we will find the energy to comply as she wants us to. Sleep is overrated, Law and Order always has re-runs and a book can be picked up later. We expect that there will be other wonderful moments waiting for us later this year, and in future years, but we also know that we need to enjoy these moments while we can.

Besides, "some day she won't want to hug and snuggle with us at bedtime." Wishing you all a wonderful 2005, one moment at a time, this is John Craik.

Listener-Commentator John Craik is the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northtowns. He lives in North Buffalo with his wife and 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter.