The Gifts We Give Our Children

A guest post by Patrick Malone
November 13, 2017

Patrick Malone is in the Chorus of the 2017 Christmas Revels. It’s his 5th show with Revels, marking his 26th year of connection with Reveling in the DC area. Beyond Reveling, Patrick works as a communications director on Capitol Hill and, with his wife, raises their two small sons.

We often hold time as the most valuable commodity. Making time for our friends and family, especially children, is a top priority and we try to structure our work and commitments to maximize those moments. Achieving “good work-life balance” is the new gold standard and having the flexibility to be present with family is a point of pride.

I am part of this. I live just a little more than a mile from my office. The walk to work takes me through Lincoln Park, down beautiful tree-lined East Capitol and into the halls of Congress. It’s really one of the nicest walking commutes in the country.

Almost every day, I drive.

I drive because it takes me thirty minutes to walk as opposed to ten minutes to drive, and that twenty minute difference is more time I can spend with my two little sons who go to bed at 7:30 each night. I’m willing to give up fresh air and exercise, both of which I could sue more of, to spend a few more precious minutes with them. That’s what mattered most to me.

And yet, here I am, once again performing in the Christmas Revels, a huge time commitment that takes me away from my kids. I’m doing this because I have realized there are gifts more valuable than time that I can give them.

The first is a love and appreciation for the arts. An understanding that anyone can appreciate music and theater – it takes no expertise, just an open heart. But, beyond that, instilling in them the very concrete notion that the arts are not just to be appreciated.  By seeing their father, whom they know as “the carrier of groceries” and “the one who’s allowed to use the scissors,” on stage, they are learning that they too can sing or dance or act or play or design. It might not be a conscious knowledge now (they are 4 and 2) but at some point it will be a reality for them. The only requirement is that I take some of the time I would spend with them and direct it toward the arts. On balance, I think that’s a fair trade.

The second gift is broader than involvement in the arts. Too many of the activities that we participate in today come pre-packaged. We’re asked to do little more than show up. These activities can be great, but they are no substitute for things that we build as a community. And true community – a group of people coming together with common purpose – takes time.  By each one of us sacrificing some of our precious hours, into that common pool, we’re able to create something special. Teaching that lesson to our children is vital as it teaches them that a life lived outside yourself is the most fulfilling.

This all comes at a cost. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t make me sad to miss the dinners, bedtimes and fall Saturdays. I remind myself in those moments, that these gifts are worth the precious investment of today and will last a lifetime.

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