Thursday, August 18, 2011

I don't want to miss a thing...

L to R: Jonathan, Lily, Katy, Leyah (Matthew's girlfriend), Matthew

It's official. The season leading up to the empty nest has begun. My oldest is a high school senior. Next week, my baby turns 13.

I've always known they'd grow up one day. And I knew that when my first one got there, the others would be quick to follow.

I had four children in less than five years. With three in diapers and a wild toddler into everything, I felt sometimes that they would never grow up. I longed for them to grow up. Now I wish those days had lasted just a little bit longer. They were precious.

But I think if I could freeze any season of their lives, it would be now. I know it sounds crazy, but I love the teen years. There is so much excitement, so much hope. My kids are beginning to think about whom they want to be, what they want to do, and with whom they want to share it. I love watching this unfold. My husband and I have been blessed. We have good kids, and we're so very proud of them.

I've always been hesitant to give parenting advice, but I think I've earned the right now.

So here it goes:

  • Cherish the moments you have with your children for time passes quickly.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments, those times when you choose not to punish but rather choose to explain life through their mistakes or the mistakes of others, including your own.
  • Look at your kids when they talk to you. Get down on their eye level. If you all learn to converse when they're younger, they'll keep talking when they're older. And get unlimited texting. It's fun to text your kids especially when they're in the same room with you.
  • Ask yourself often, "Will this matter five years from now?" If so, address it. If not, let it go. Choose your battles.
  • Go to their games, their recitals, their practices. Don't just drop them off. They love to know you're watching them and cheering them on.
  • Remember your responsibility is to help your children not need you. I know it sounds harsh, and it bruises the ego. But consider this: our time with our children is limited. In that limited time we need to teach them independence, character, grounded thinking and faith. We give them the tools they need to succeed in life.

But don't worry. They always come back to us. They'll always need us for love, advice, support and gas money. But they'll be able to stand on their own two feet and take risks because we did a good job preparing them for their future.

I can't believe this time has come. Forgive me if I'm not available as much, but these next few years belong to my family. I don't want to miss a thing. I think that's the way it ought to be.