In the Meantime

By Diane Stark

In the Meantime

“Mom, can we get a box of mini muffins?” My daughter, Julia, asked during a recent shopping trip.

“Jules, that box is over three dollars and there aren’t enough packages for everyone in our family.”

She sighed. “I wish we had fewer kids in our family. My friend’s mom buys these muffins for her breakfast all the time.”

“But if she’s an only child, that box lasts a whole week. It wouldn’t be enough for one morning at our house.”

“Like I said, I wish we had fewer kids.”

Her statement is an often-repeated one in our home.

A few weeks ago, my other daughter, Lea, wanted to invite a friend to go to the movies with us. “I’m sorry, Honey, but there’s not room in the car for anyone else,” I said. “We have a seven passenger SUV, and there are seven people in our family.”

“Why can’t we drive two cars?”

“Because that’s not very convenient. We’re going to make it just us this time.”

She sighed. “I wish we had fewer kids in our family.”

My kids aren’t the only ones who occasionally feel this way. A few days before my last birthday, my husband, Eric, asked me what I wanted for a gift.

“Oh, the thing I want most is something I can’t have,” I said.

Eric’s expression turned to one of horror. “Please tell me you don’t want another baby.”

“Oh, no, five kids is enough.” I smiled wistfully. “The thing I want most is my own office, but there’s not room in the house for that.”

Our family is blessed with a large home, but we’re also blessed with a large family. Our house has four bedrooms, plus a large loft area. Right now, my two older sons have their own rooms and my daughters share a room. Eric and I have a bedroom, of course, and right now, our youngest son sleeps in the loft. (Well, that’s where his bed is. All too often, his body finds its way into our bed, sometime in the wee hours of the night.)

Eric nodded. “I know you want your own space to write, Honey, and it will happen in a few years.”

Our oldest son is almost 20 and the next oldest child is 16, so we could have some free bedrooms in the house in the relatively near future. But if our oldest moves out, my daughters would want their own rooms. And Nathan can’t sleep in the loft forever.

Having my own office, it seemed, was still a long way off.

I dreamed of decorating my space with inspiring writing quotes, and I imagined the amazing things I could produce if I only had my own office in which to work. (Right now, I am sitting in bed, typing on a lap top, which is propped up with my husband’s pillow. And I just know this essay would be far more fabulous if I had my own office in which to write it.)

But, for the time being at least, my dream would remain just that.

Recently, the DJ on the radio was talking about a smart phone app he’d just downloaded. It was called “The Legacy Countdown.” You enter your child’s graduation date, and it counts down how many days or weeks until that date. It is designed to help parents remember that our time with our children is finite. They won’t live under our roofs forever, and our time to influence them is fleeting.

The non-techie version of this is to count how many weeks until graduation and then put that many marbles in a jar. When you remove a marble each week, it will remind you that we don’t have forever with our kids.

As I listened to this, I thought about my own children. I’ve got one child in college, two in high school, one in middle school, and my youngest is in kindergarten. That means I’ve got roughly 120 weeks left with my high schoolers before they graduate.

It might sound like a lot, but time seems to slip through my fingers like sand. How many times had I wished away the days until the weekend? Allowed a Tuesday to pass in a blur of laundry and errands? How many Tuesdays did I have left with them?

In 120 weeks, three of my children may no longer live under my roof. (They are more than welcome to, but the reality is that they may not.) In 120 weeks, I might not see them every day. They won’t come in from the school bus, anxious to have a snack and share their days with me. They won’t leave their socks on the floor and ask me what’s for dinner.

They may not be here to tuck in at night.

Suddenly, I didn’t want any empty bedrooms in my house. I didn’t care about my office. I just wanted more time with my babies.

A few nights later, I found my husband rearranging our bedroom furniture. He’d created an empty space in the corner and placed a small desk there. On the desk sat my lap top, a jar of my favorite colored pens, and a framed picture of us.

A corner office. Just for me, in the corner of our bedroom.

Tears filled my eyes as I hugged him. “Thank you, Baby.”

“I won’t be able to give you a real office for a few more years,” he said, “but I thought this would be nice in the meantime.”

In the meantime.

He was talking about my 120 weeks.

The phrase “in the meantime” is often used to describe a period of waiting for something better to happen. But I can’t spend mine just waiting. It’s too important for that.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my little corner office. I’ll make memories with my children.

I’ll remove a marble each week and remember to make the most of each day. No, each moment.

In the meantime.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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3 Responses to “In the Meantime”

  1. Your sweet story tugged at my heart strings. Children grow up and away from us all too soon. I remember wishing my fighting teens would hurry up and grow up, and when they did, I cried. Enjoy your family…dirty socks and all.

  2. Pam says:

    I don’t have children, but this story brought tears to my eyes thinking about things from the reverse perspective. I couldn’t wait to move away for college. And then I couldn’t wait for January break to come home, sleep in my room, snuggle with the family dog in the morning, and drink Mom’s coffee because mine NEVER tasted quite as good. Enjoy those weeks, that corner office, and your children’s visits (which if they’re anything like me will sometimes be extended) when that time does come. Lovely essay!

  3. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    Thank you for reminding me to live in the present!

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