Dear New Hope,
I remember the days when we had 4 children under the age of 5. For several years we lived in a fog of confusion. Hours dragged by. Days were long. Sleep was minimal. Diapers were expensive. Joy was scarce. The survival and care of our children seemed to be our only priority. It was a season in life when it felt like those days would never end.
But those days have indeed ended. Our kids have grown up and gotten tall (and are still wearing pants far too short for their legs.) They have become capable of walking by themselves, feeding themselves, dressing themselves, and, unfortunately, driving by themselves. The older ones are making decisions on who to date, where to work, who to marry, and where they want to live. And now we, as parents, are standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to launch our kids out of the home and into adulthood, and it leaves us wondering: “where did all the time go?”
Just yesterday, my son was a toddler who lived every day in his Superman outfit. We would pray at night for a spider to bite him because he desperately wanted to have webs in his fingers. Now, Kyle is 13 years old, dresses normally (kinda,) and mows our yard. Unfortunately, our schedules don’t often mix with quality time.
Just yesterday, my third daughter was jumping out of the car and skipping into grade school with her red hair donned with “wolf ears” from the Great Wolf Lodge. She wore them for months. The ears had been worn so often, I thought they had become grafted into her scalp and it would take a surgical procedure to remove them from her head. Now, Darci is almost 15 years old, dancing and singing and running to and fro across the universe in one musical after another. I barely see her. And I miss the “wolf ears.”
Just yesterday, my second daughter sat in a laundry basket as I zoomed her around the living room, pretending to be a race car or a speeding train. Her deep giggles would fill the room, and I was the best dad in the world. Now, Ella has a driver’s license, works a job, and is making decisions on college. We still own the same old laundry basket, and I wonder if she could fit in it for one more lap around the house.
Then there is my oldest daughter. Just yesterday, Annika was a toddler who sat in a big cauldron on the stove as we snapped her picture. The burner was off, but there she sat with her head barely above the edge of the pot, smiling with her two piggy tails spouting from her head. Now, in just a few weeks, we will move Annika to Massachusetts, say goodbye, and she will establish a new life, get married, and be launched forever into the world of Boston accents. Yet, I still wonder if she’s small enough to sit in the cauldron for one last picture.
I’m not ready to launch my kids. I’ve not spent enough time with them. I’ve been too busy working. I’ve lost too much time on my phone. I’ve been too preoccupied. I’ve wasted moments, hours, and days when I could have been making memories with the kids.
Annika was making breakfast in the kitchen this week as I sat on a bar stool watching her. Reflecting that I only have 5 weeks left with her in our home, I said, “Annika, I sure am going to miss you.” And then, inexplicably, tears began streaming down my face as I felt the sadness of launching a daughter into the world. She put everything down and held me as we savored the sweet moment.
In an article called “Watch Your Kids, Not Your Phone,” Masada Siegel writes about how parents are ignoring precious moments with their kids because their attention is on their phones. One mom sitting on a park bench was so absorbed in her phone that she was oblivious to the fact that her toddler had wandered a half mile away. Another mom was so focused on her phone that she didn’t notice her toddler’s hand stuck in an elevator door. Masada writes, “Everywhere I turn these days, people are paying attention to their phones instead of their kids.” It makes me wonder how many incidents I’ve missed with my kids because I’ve been paying attention to nonessentials.
I love how Masada ends her Op-Ed piece. “Those moments I waste mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds and emails can never be gotten back. Maybe it is time we all got off our cell phones and focused on our children. They’re worth our attention. They don’t wait to grow up, and if you miss these moments, they’re gone forever.” As I sit here, regretting lost moments and shedding a few tears over missed opportunities, each of those phrases calls for a conviction to change:
- Those moments we waste…can never be gotten back.
- It is time to…focus on our children.
- Our children are worth our attention.
- Children don’t wait to grow up.
- If you miss these moments, they’re gone forever.
In a few short weeks, we will launch our first child into the world. And in the next few years, we will be launching the rest of our children. Then we will be empty nesters. It is an exciting stage of life where we can celebrate their successes and watch them have families of their own. But it’s also a time of reflection and sadness on time wasted, moments missed, too-busy-to-do-that excuses, and time that is irretrievably gone.
I’d like to go back to Kyle’s childhood room and pretend we are both Spiderman and shoot webs out of our hands. I’d like to drop Darci off at school just once more and smile with joy as those “wolf ears” bop their way into her classroom. I’d like to go back to racing Ella around the house in a laundry basket and hear her giggles. I’d like to put Annika in a cauldron on the stove just once more and take her picture as her smile radiates and her hair shoots up like a fountain. But, alas, those days are gone.
Young parents, don’t miss opportunities with your kids while they’re young. They go by so fast and you’ll never get them back.
Parents with teenagers, you would do well to prepare a launch plan that helps your kids become successful as adults. Move your parenting style from control to release.
Parents of grown children, you still have new memories to make…trips to visit them…marriages to celebrate…grandchildren to hold.
Owners of cell phones, thank the Lord for the gadgets of instant communication and digital companionship. But if they are robbing you of precious time with your family, take Masada’s advice: “Maybe it is time we all got off our cell phones and focused on our children.” Children are worth our time investment and our love.
You are loved,