The longer I live, the more convinced I become of how easy it is to allow irretrievable moments to slip away. I thought I learned this when Cynthia and I reared our four children. I'm finding it just as true now with our 10 grandchildren. Regardless of our demanding schedules and in spite of our many responsibilities, we need to treasure those precious moments our children offer.
Let me get practical right up front and ask the question that's on your mind, “How do you do that?” I'm glad you asked. I have learned that we can capture those irretrievable moments by following three simple, two-word applications.
First, give attention. By that I mean we must notice more than the needs of the child; we must give attention to the child. I like the way one woman put it. I love her honesty.
I never really looked at [my children]. When I looked at their mouths, I saw dirt around them. When I looked at their noses, I saw them running. When I looked at their eyes, I saw them open when they should have been closed. When I saw their hair, it needed combing or cutting. I never really looked at the whole face without offering some advice.
For over twenty years, I invited myself into their lives. I put sweaters on them when I was cold, removed blankets from their beds when I was hot. I fed them when I was hungry and put them to bed when I was tired. I put them on diets when I was fat. I car-pooled them when I felt that the distance was too far for me to walk. Then I told them they took a lot of my time.
I never realized as I dedicated my life to ring-around-the-collar that cleanliness is not next to godliness—children are.1
Take a look at yourself for a moment. Have you allowed yourself to become persnickety around the house? Are you so nitpicking that everything has to be constantly clean? Is that really next to godliness—or is it your attempt to maintain control? The dirt will just come back. But truth be told, the children may never want to come back. Give attention to the children. You can train them without breaking their spirits or degrading their self-worth.
Second, take photos. Capture those special moments in pictures. When they first learn to water-ski and they are barely staying up, take a picture. When they mark on the walls with permanent markers, take a picture. Is it their first date or first corsage? Grab the camera. Photos at birthdays, graduations, and weddings are obvious. But I'm talking about those daily moments in the lives of each one of your children that are irretrievable. Capture those moments permanently by taking photos. Make your kids individual photo albums to give to them when they have kids of their own. You capture so much more than images when you take photos.
Third, start laughing. I'm serious! We live in one uptight generation! I mean, we are TENSE! One of my contributions to our family is a sense of humour. I will commit myself to it for the rest of my life. They may never remember my sermons, but I hope they always remember that I'm the guy who threw their mother in the pool and lived to tell the story. (Throwing her into the pool was no big deal…but living to tell the story…well, that's altogether different.)
Most parents of adult children have one major regret. They regret not having more fun. Fun times are the moments kids log in their memories. They remember those times when something didn't go as planned, or when Dad tripped and spilled his dinner in the restaurant, or when Mom, for an April Fool's joke on Dad, had an attorney call him threatening a lawsuit. “April Fool's, honey!” If you can laugh about it, so will they! Regrettably, they also remember when the slightest spilled milk turns into an hour of blame and ridicule. Without a sense of humour, you as the parent soon become the grim reaper. Your kids will feel an awkward, constant tension when they are around you…and they will yearn for the time when they don't have to be. What a tragic way to grow up! So lighten up…and start laughing! You'll regret it if you don't. Laughter in the home begins with you.
Time with our kids and grandkids is precious. It is irretrievable time…never to come again. My advice? Give attention…take photos…and start laughing.
1. Bombeck, Erma. Family—The Ties That Bind…And Gag! New York: Fawcett Books, 1987, (218–19).