My oldest child will be thirty nine this week. Time flies…If you have a child who is older than a week you have an inkling of what I mean. But unless you have adult children it’s difficult to understand how fleeting time seems. When I meet with young parents I wish I could convey to them just how little time they have with their children. I wish I could convince them that much of what they are doing right now is just a waste of time.
The Bible tells us our days are numbered. We know time should be precious. And still we waste so much of it…
Waste it on arguments and petty gossip and worry.
Waste it on pursuing things that don’t matter.
Waste it spending time with people who drag us down.
Waste it doing things that just have to be done again.
I don’t really have any regrets about my life. At each stage I believe I did the best I could at the time with the knowledge and abilities I had. And I don’t particularly like Oprah, but if I remember correctly she is an advocate of “when you know better, you do better”. So here is what I wish someone had told me when I was a young parent. These are the things I wish I had known so I could have done a better job raising my children:
Dust and dishes will wait. They will be there when you are old and gray, but children won’t. If you have a choice between cleaning your house or spending time with your child, opt for the latter. Buy paper plates if you need to!!
When your children are older they won’t remember as many “things” as “experiences”. Consider this carefully before spending money on the latest clothes or gadgets. Instead, take a trip, go for a walk, fly a kite, pick flowers, eat a picnic lunch, feed the ducks, attend a concert.
Realize that your children are separate human beings. Everything they do isn’t a reflection on your parenting skill. Every difference of opinion isn’t disrespectful. Every problem isn’t your fault, nor is it your job to find a solution for every problem. Sometimes things just are. People are the way they are. And children learn some things by making mistakes and solving their own problems.
Read to your child. Turn off that television or game boy or telephone or whatever, and read, read, read. Nothing will make more of a difference in your child’s life than knowledge and a good vocabulary.
Make your child work. Children need to do chores, take care of their own things, help around the house. They need responsibilities, not maid service. They need self-confidence, not just privilege.
Finally, be true to yourself. While I’m a firm believer in spending quality time with your children and having the best relationship you can, I also know that at the end of about eighteen years, regardless of whether your children leave home or stay with you until they are forty, you are stuck with YOU. Make sure you have lived a life that has prepared you to be as independent as your child. It’s a tough transition for some people.
So there it is. My short list of considerations for the day. I guess I think about these things because I work with children. And I hope that I make a difference in their lives and in the lives of their parents. Perhaps that is why I enjoy teaching so much! Each year I get to “start over” with a new crop of children.