I Am the Sandman

joe —  Sat 15-Dec-12

Dear SantaPanic started to sit in as Thanksgiving weekend passed without single idea of what our kids wanted for Christmas. Being college freshman, I would think their list would be endless. I remember the expressions on their faces when we sat down to try and figure out their lists. You would have thought that they were having that dream where they show up to class realizing that there’s a Physics final and they forgot to study.

It wasn’t until an Aha! moment with our son, Jared, that I realized the gift they both needed but neither would think to ask for.

Ours is a beautifully blended family. Both kids have three homes – ours, their other parent’s, and a dorm room. They now have two distinct sets of friends, their past high school friends and their new college friends. By virtue of a beautifully sweet girlfriend, Jared has a third family in his circle. Let’s not even get started on the number of grandparents.

Jared and I were talking about his plans for Christmas break. His list included going back to Wisconsin to visit his grandparents for a week, trying to get enough time with his girlfriend, visiting his high school friends, making both sets of parents happy by staying at their house for a while, squeezing in the Passion conference, and finishing his college finals, all in a couple of weeks. While he was incredibly excited about each one of them, the weight of trying to satisfy the scheduling demands each presented was taking a toll. We all had our demands for his time. Now stretch this by two young adults and it becomes clear why neither had thought much about their Christmas list.

Rogaine AutocorrectBeing the overly preachy parental unit that I can be, I wanted to revisit the talk we had when he entered high school, the one about the big rocks, small rocks, and the sand. Remember that one? As I went over the story in my head, however, I couldn’t tell what was sand and what were his big rocks. From a parent’s view, we clearly are the big rock. From his girlfriend’s vantage point, she understandably wants to be a big rock as well. I’m sure his Georgia Tech professors have a competing view to all of us. His non-refundable plane ticket has to be a big rock – hence the term non-refundable.

It was at that moment that I knew what Jared needed on his Christmas list.


Many of us have been taught the rock and sand parable as the guy putting the elements into the jar, never really considering it from the perspective of being the sand or one of the rocks. It raises the question, “Are we rock or sand in others’ lives?”

The story teaches us that the sand is the trivial things in our life, the things that go in last. We clearly want to be a big rock in our kids’ lives. When they are young, sure, but what about when they get their own self-ruling lives?

As yearly visits to the Florida beaches has taught me, sand has the wonderful characteristic of fitting into nearly every place imaginable. It flows and forms over all of life’s rocks. But, it also carries amazing weight. I would only ever consider it light when holding a handful at a time. Relationship sandHaving the option to carry a five gallon bucket of rocks or a five gallon bucket of sand, I will always carry the lighter rocks. Sand carries weight. It has its own gravitas. Sand is not trivial.

What I want to offer to my kids this Christmas is for Beth and I to be their sand – a valuable part of their life that carries great weight, yet is flexible enough to fit within their other demanding big rocks. Yes, it means we will not get all the time we wanted. Nor will we get the best time slots in their schedule as they first put in the immovable big rocks. It is a sacrifice, and we will have to be flexible. Knowing that our kids, however, can reduce the stress of trying to make everyone else happy at the cost of making themselves miserable is worth every grain of sand.

So while our kids are growing up, trying to figure out which rocks are going to fit and which aren’t, it is comforting to know that there is always room for sand.

Merry Christmas, Lauren and Jared, y’all are getting sand!