LONG DAYS AND SHORT YEARS

As a dad with young kids there’s a parental maxim I’m continually repeating to myself: 

“The days may be long but the years will be short”. 

Each day with young children can seem a drawn-out repeat of the previous, so I endeavour to minimise some of my frustrations with this old adage: “The days may be long but the years will be short”

Every evening when I bang on the bathroom door and tell my daughters to “hurry up in there!” – I whisper to myself: “The days may be long but the years will be short”. Each morning when I rush around the house asking my eight-year-old son: “Where are your school shoes, lad? I can’t believe you’ve lost them again!” I stare down his I-don’t-care-about-shoes facial expression and say to myself….. “The days may be long but the years will be short”.

When I speak with parents whose offspring are into their latter teens or even older, they share with me their laments and regrets regarding not embracing this “younger” parenting season with their own kids. These more experienced parents miss the long days of when their own kids were smaller, and they prod me with a large stick of urgency to spend more time with mine.  

Yes, the days may be long but the years are short.

As both a father of faith and also a minister of religion I was blessed early last year to baptise my then twelve-year-old daughter .  The baptismal ceremony and subsequent celebration was held just weeks before the pandemic pressed ‘pause’ (or possibly even ‘cancel’) on regular life for most of the world. Jessica’s baptism into Christ – a rite of passage marking the maturing of a believer’s faith – jolted me into a realisation that the days had begun to stop being long and the years were beginning to be short. 

How do I squeeze the last few moments out of being a dad of young children during a worldwide health crisis? The answer for me was to pack up the family home, and take my wife and three young children on a year-long trip around Australia during 2021.

I’m aware that one day I won’t be around. I think about that every time I conduct someone else’s funeral. And I wonder how my kids will remember me in the days and years that follow, and what sort of loving mementos and legacies I shall leave in their lives.

I’m hoping a year together in a tin can, travelling the terrors and beauties of this wide brown land, will provide eternal memories and character-shaping experiences. 

The travel days may be long, but this year will be too short.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord… Blessed is the parent whose life is filled with them”
(Psalm 127)

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JOANNE, KEA, THEODORE, AND JESSICA
THE RILEY RIG (WITH DAVID WATCHING THE SUNSET IN CENTRAL NEW SOUTH WALES)

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.

NO, NOT THAT MANILLA

Manila, the capital city of the Phillipines, has a population almost the size of Australia’s. My last visit to that major Asian city involved me in a taxi having a minor accident with another vehicle on a busy roundabout. When my cab was side-swiped my immediate thought was selfish: “Great… now I’ll have to find another ride…. it’ll take them ages to exchange insurance details!”

My taxi-driver must have sensed my Western inexperience with Filipino ways. He put his hand on my shoulder (I was riding in the front seat like all Australian males should in taxis) and reassured me: “Stay here. This will only take two minutes.” He was wrong. It took a minute before he was back in the cab with a fold of cash he had negotiated from the at-fault driver in the other car.

They do things a little differently in the Manila of the Phillipines.

The Manilla of Australia is where the Rileys spent yesterday afternoon. With a population ten thousand times smaller than its Asian namesake, the Manilla of the Northern Tablelands is better known for rich wheat harvests, and cute lambs playing in paddocks (and apparently my vegetarian kids didn’t really want to know about the fate of those cute little lambs…).

It has the far-too-wide main street that proudly shouts: “We have plenty of space here!”, and also the Art Deco architecture that reminds me of my grandparents. 

Despite this small town becoming world-famous for paragliding, the thriller in this Manilla was to drive our car across the long, narrow bridge high above the Namoi River. Each of the Rileys instinctively breathed in to reduce the width of our Toyota Landcruiser as we edged passed a car coming in the opposite direction. It was such a buzz that at the end of the bridge we did an immediate u-turn and drove straight back over and returned into town.

Afternoon tea in Manilla needed to be had with an elderly great-aunt that Joanne hadn’t seen in three decades. Chocky bickies and lemon lolly-water to hype the kids up, and chats about recent meetings of the local arts and crafts association. Country towns in Australia are all the same, and they’re each uniquely different.

Oh, and I’m sure the town of Manilla in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales does have a taxi somewhere, we just didn’t see it today. 

NO, NOT THAT ONE
MANILLA, NEW SOUTH WALES (45km from Tamworth)
MY ART-DECO FETISH WAS SATIATED IN MANILLA’S MAIN STREET
AT LEAST THIS SCHOOL IS BIGGER THAN THE CARAVAN JOANNE AND I WILL BE HOME-SCHOOLING OUR KIDS IN THIS YEAR
MANILLA’S SKINNY BRIDGE OVER THE NAMOI RIVER

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.

A NEW DAY ARRIVES

I’m re-orienting this Reverential Ramblings blog to provide a written (and occasional visual) account of our year-travelling-around-Australia adventure.

For the year of 2021 I’m dragging my wife Joanne and our three children on a 40,000km circumnavigation of this great southern continent, and we’ll be exploring more than just the geography. And I mean it when I say “dragging”. Joanne was not that keen. It’s taken me over two years of constant nagging and manipulative mansplaining to convince her an odyssey around Oz with our oddball kids was a good idea. Rather than being convinced of the genius of the plan, Joanne eventually agreed…just to shut me up.

God bless her, and God bless the ability of a husband to wear down his wife eventually.

Surprisingly, the kids have also been bland in their response to take a year off mainstream schooling and trek around the world’s largest island with their father. Despite my explanations of old friendships continuing online, and new relationships being made on the road – the three Riley kids have been been slow to embrace my enthusiasm.

So, we’ve packed our home and rented it out, upgraded the car to tow a newly built caravan, and set out in faith that pandemic-related lockdowns would simply set us free to be unhurried in our travels. We’ll allow the Creator of this continent to send us down whatever rock-strewn road He believes an adventure or lesson might await.

I had been saying to the family during our planning of the trip it would take only a month of settling into new routines and daily rhythms before the realisation dawned on them that dad’s idea of a Big Lap around Australia was brilliant. And yet, after our first day of travel over the Great Dividing Range to the town of Tamworth, I’ve come to the realisation that it might take a little longer for some of the family members to come to that dawning. 

However long it takes, I know a new morning will come. 

OUR HOME FOR THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS
THE RILEY TRIBE I’M DRAGGING AROUND OZ FOR TWELVE MONTHS

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to travel Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read of one man’s sacrifice on the Kwai River in Burma.

David speaking 2