Lately I have been doing a lot of reminiscing about our kiddos as itsy-bitsy-wee ones and wishing for some of that time back. Of course, looking back, it’s all with rose-colored glasses. I choose to focus my memories on their chubby little cheeks, squishy soft hands that reached for mine, Johnson&Johnson’s shampoo and their sweet little voices. I prefer not to dwell on the memories of nights of multiple wake-ups, temper tantrums, perpetual messes everywhere and the copious amounts of stuff necessary to lug EVERYWHERE. That said, I absolutely love where our kiddos are right now. I love the people they are and the people they are becoming. I love the portability of our lives.
It’s so odd to be on the track with little people, who become bigger people who evolve into grown ups and fly the coop. I don’t like that aspect much, but it truly is a part of life. As I watch friends go before me on this bittersweet journey, it puts me in check with the path our own children are on. I always second-guess myself, and perhaps that is the nature of parenting…..guessing, figuring it out as you go, judging yourself against others, watching, learning, repeat the cycle.
I just pray that the way we raise our children prepares them for the life ahead of them.
- We choose not to helicopter-parent our children. If we orchestrate every activity, every friendship, monitor every argument, control every choice; how do we ever expect them to think for themselves? We won’t always be there. In taking away the opportunities to learn, choose and fall, we raise our children to be dependent on us and independence will be long in coming to them. Living in constant fear of what “might” happen is unhealthy. So we let go. A lot. And we trust, hope and pray. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
- We give them a lot of freedoms, choices and variety in their lives. Lead by example. Set expectations. Open your mind to a variety of opportunities, people and experiences. Life is FULL of them. Be the salt and the light and learn how to get along with different personalities. Life skill! Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
- We try to let them be kids for a while. That means (for our family): participating in team sports, band, X-Box, skateboarding with friends, barbies, pet shop toys, Poptropica, weekends of NOTHING scheduled so they can roam the ‘hood with friends and build forts out of spare nails, sheets and big sticks, kickball in the street, wrestling with each other and dad (which I LOATHE but can see the importance of letting little cubs wrestle). Let the big responsibilities wait. There is a lifetime of that ahead.
- We give them chores. Life is full of them. If we don’t teach them and give ample opportunity to practice, how will they learn? Sure, I can do it faster and better, but it does my children a huge disservice. A side bonus of this is chore day gets done MUCH faster. The downside is, perhaps not to MY specifications, but in time……
- We give them allowances. Money management is a practice. practice. practice. Get in the habit of managing money, saving for wants, helping others. Start early. Start little. Big payoff when they get older. We are starting to see the fruits of this practice even now with our older boys.
- We give them consequences. Action. Reaction. Good choices. Bad choices. Responsibility for choices made. Again, much easier to learn when they are young and just pray, pray, pray that it’s a good, strong, thick foundation that serves them well later in life.
- We bring them to church, speak about our faith and do our best to live out that faith in our lives. Again…build that foundation. All that we have, all that we are is granted to us by the mercy and grace of a most loving God. When the time comes in their lives when they are questioned and challenged on their own faith may they have enough of a background, trust and strength to walk the walk. May that time be short. May these lessons in their lives now bear great saving fruit later. Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go,and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
- We give them bedtimes. Reasonable bed times. With the occasional sleep over or special activity. Regular sleep is a huge need. The old “I’m not tired” just doesn’t cut it when they are asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed. They need it, we enforce it.\
- We give them extra homework. Practice makes perfect. Doesn’t win us any “cool mom and dad” awards but I don’t really care.
- We let them fail. Set the bar. Lead by example. Show them how. Preparation. Time management. We learn from our mistakes. The can’t learn if we do it for them. It makes me cringe, but it truly shortens the learning curve.