"Mom, how do you ask someone to marry you?"
In 15 years or so my son's question might not have taken me by surprise, but coming from a seven-year-old I paused to wonder.
Then I asked, "Do you have someone special in mind you want to ask?"
"No," he replied. "I'm just planning for the future."
Planning for the future is good, I thought, so I described a few possible methods he might want to keep in mind: bending on one knee and pleading, sending a dozen long-stemmed roses with a card asking the question for him, or offering the ring between courses at an expensive five-star restaurant.
"I think I'm going to try the restaurant one, " he decided.
"Good choice," I replied. "It demonstrates your money-making ability and your good taste as well.
A flash of worry crossed his face. "Do you think I should wear a tie?"
"A power tie would certainly make a strong statement," I began, "But a simple black might express an elegant manner."
Wait a minute...I stopped myself abruptly. Now we were planning for the future in detail. Was this really necessary for a kid whose two front teeth had just fallen out?
In today's competitive world, planning for our children's future down to the tiniest detail seems almost mandatory. Paul Edward is placed on the waiting list of an exclusive pre-school while he's still in the womb. Elizabeth Ann has just opened a savings account for her Stanford education and tomorrow she's learning how to walk. Jeffrey Butler, at two, showed an uncommon interest in the moon one night. NASA was called the next morning; Jeffrey was registered for its astronaut program.
As parents we are well-advised to think of our children's future now and again. But planning for the future always needs to be balanced with living today.
How important is that private pre-school if it cuts down on what Paul Edward longs for – an afternoon in the park with his dad? What good is socking away money in the college savings account if we miss the excitement of Elizabeth Ann's first step? What have we lost if we're so intent on finding the phone number for NASA that we forget to read Jeffrey Butler Goodnight Moon?
We ask our children what they want to be and do when they grow older. Who are they now? What are they doing today? What's best for them today? Now. This very minute. We might discover that when we make the most of today, we automatically make the most of tomorrow.
Today my son doesn't need to plan what tie to wear to some distant marriage proposal. He doesn't need to know exactly how he'll ask someone to marry him. But he needs to know we care about what he'll do and that we believe he'll be able to do it just right when the time comes...in power tie or black.