A happy childhood, remembered with fondness, is one of life’s greatest blessings. It is an anchor that will keep us grounded and secure in the knowledge that, despite the trials and tribulations that have and will come our way, the prism through which we saw life as a child is just a taste of, perhaps, what heaven will be like. Those of us who were blessed with happy childhoods don’t so much remember the bad times, but instead recall with nostalgia the wonder and awe with which we viewed the world and everything in it. Despite our own childhoods or current trials and circumstances, we owe it to our children to make sure their childhood is a happy one. It is our blood debt, the least we can do, because those memories will last a lifetime.
The other evening, after dinner, Kim and I were quite tired after a long day. It had been a pretty rowdy evening, and our inclination was to put the kids to bed early and retire to the living room for a night of vegging on the couch. The kids, however, had a different idea. They asked us to have ‘family reading night,’ and we, liking the idea, obliged. Now with our kids, ‘family ___________ night’ is whatever they take a notion they want us all to do as a group. Fill in the blank with words like ‘singing,’ ‘movie,’ or ‘game’ and you’ll get the picture.
So ‘family reading night’ it was, and it started with all of us on the couch watching Nathaniel read his school reading assignment to the group, finishing and exiting the stage to thunderous applause. Abby then followed with the book she is working on for pre-school. Hannah, not wanting to be undone, got up and told us what she thought the pictures in the book she was holding said. They both were applauded and praised as well. It’s great how kids feed off each other. Peer pressure can go both ways. When it can be channeled into something good, like reading, the results are amazing. The girls are farther along than Nathaniel ever was at that age, simply by following his example.
While we certainly have our share of things we hope our kids DON’T remember when they are older, long ago we committed to try to consider the moment we are in, whatever stage of life, whatever twist that moment has to offer, to consider it through the eyes of children, our children. If we have a disagreement, do we hash it out in front of them? If we need to discipline one, how is that conducted and is it done in front of the others? What tone of voice do we use? How will they remember this day, this hour, this very minute? Will they remember it with fondness?
The mantra of this age is to not shelter children, to expose them to as much of the world as you can as soon as you can. By everything that is good and right, we reject that mantra. Of course, there are negative things children will experience and sometimes shouldn’t be sheltered from (for example, we feel like it’s important to teach our kids about life and death as a part of their Christian upbringing – therefore we do take them to funerals, etc.), but the world will come soon enough, with all its troubles and heartaches. By God’s grace we will surround our children with prayer and love, insulate them from the slings and barbs of ‘this present world,’ nurture them in the teachings and admonition of the Lord. As our parents did for us, we will create memories they will look back on fondly, so they will in turn create memories with their children after them.
Happy childhoods aren’t so much remembered by the big things, Disney trips, giant gifts, and such, but rather by the small, routine things – the ‘I love you’s,’ the hugs and kisses when Daddy gets home, the prayers before bed, the times you praise them for making a grade, reading a book, or cleaning their room. Even seeming trials can become bonding times (taking the ‘long way home’ after we get lost!). They are remembered by the happy times we have together as a family, every day. They can even be remembered by something as simple as a ‘family reading night.’