I’m going to step from out of the shadows for a moment to type some thoughts. Today, Michael, my firstborn, turns 23.
Parenting classes and instruction never prepared me for this phase of parenting, when I look backwards into time at my adult children’s lives. As a young parent, my kids’ lives and my role in their young lives stretched out before me. Now their childhoods are just photos and memories. Sometimes those memories come rushing back like a flood, accompanied with a lot of emotions — joy, humor, regret, shame. From where I stand now, there is no reset button. There is no do-over. I can’t grab my babies and pull them into my lap. I can’t touch their tiny faces or hold their small hands or listen to their little voices.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my adult children. We are all friends and very close. But those precious childhood years are gone, never to return or to be relived. Now my kids are only a few years from moving out and starting their own families. Even our present experience of nightly family dinners, frequent car trips, family walks and other precious moments together will be quickly winding down.
As I was thinking about this on my drive to work this morning, another realization hit me. I will be 50 next year. If my family is blessed with long life, I have another 30 years or so. That means I’m quickly approaching the halfway point of my life with my wife and kids. Half of it is almost over. It blazed by so quickly. I can’t help feeling like I missed so much of it.
For what it’s worth, here’s my advise to all young parents. Don’t let anything steal you away from your children. Don’t let financial struggles, career choices, relational strife, hobbies, church, or anything good or bad rob you from the irretrievable years of your kids’ childhood. I know that with young children, the first 18 or so years of their lives can seem forever. But they are not. That time will be gone before you know it.
When you’re with your kids, be with your kids. Put everything away and just be with them. When you’re watching a movie with them, look at their faces and enjoy the wonder, laughter or surprise. When you’re on a walk with them, hold their hands, look at what captures their attention, and don’t rush. When you’re eating together, forget the mess and the volume and simply share the moment.
These last several years of family togetherness are so precious to me. I cherish them more than anything. I’m convinced that the best legacy of my life will be my kids. I’m blessed that my kids still make time to have family dinner together almost every night. Most of the times, I can’t stop laughing at their antics and jokes. I’m also blessed that my kids still like to watch TV and movies together. We laugh and cry as we watch the show together and repeat quotes after the credits have rolled by.
There’s no one else I would rather be than with my wife and kids.