Being the parents of four small children, we often get advice from unexpected places. Sometimes that advice is welcome, other times not so much, but we (usually…) appreciate the sentiment nonetheless. Perhaps the most common word of advice we hear, always from parents who are older than us, is to cherish the moment, because it won’t last forever. Now I can’t speak for my more sentimental wife, but I will admit that when people said that to me in the early days of our parenthood I would just smile and nod, all the while rolling my eyes inwardly. When life is full of dirty diapers and screaming babies, those moments don’t seem too ‘cherish worthy.’ In fact, I can recall many times longing for the day, that glorious day, when we can finally kick the boogers out of the house with some words of wisdom of our own – “don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
But now, 8+ years into parenthood and four kids later, I can say that understanding those words of advice takes some wisdom gained through experience. Jesus told us we would have trouble, that this world is full of it. It’s full of death, sickness, despair, and problems of every imaginable sort. Whether we’ve been touched by tragedy yet or not, pondering on the fact that none of us will escape this world unscathed should lead us to truly appreciate life’s many blessings. Just watching our children grow up gives us wisdom as parents that nothing else could bring. I’ve finally learned to truly savor the moments as a parent, those special, rare moments that take my breath away…
Their head on my shoulder
Whether an infant or a six year old, when my children put their head on my shoulder something magical happens. When babies are able to hold their heads up it seems they are always looking around, wanting to see and interact with the wide, new world around them. But I’ll never forget the feeling when I’m holding them and, after looking around while, they eventually lay their head on my shoulder, sigh that deep, baby sigh, and finally succumb to sleep. When they are older it’s even more special, because they want to. When my four-year old or my big kindergartener comes over and asks me to hold them, that head on my shoulder conveys so many things – trust, dependence, love… There will soon come a day when my shoulder will no longer be a place for my children to rest their heads. So now, during this stage of their lives, nobody will ever accuse me of not savoring every moment.
Seeing kids make the right choice
We spend so much time trying to teach our children to make wise choices. Often we are frustrated by the wrong, childish, silly decisions they make. We wonder if we are making any difference at all. But then, out of the blue, one of our children, despite being tempted to do wrong, makes a choice to do right. Those are the moments where we truly feel God’s hand on our family.
That light in their eyes when they ‘get it’
So far I’ve taught two of my four children how to ride a bike without training wheels, one of them at four years of age. I’ll never forget the look of wonder in their eyes when, after wobbling and falling and wanting to quit, after doubting me the entire time, they finally found themselves peddling along, holding themselves up for the very first time. Whether it’s riding a bike, driving a car, or getting along with others, teaching our kids the ‘ropes’ of life is our job as parents. When we do it right, the ‘pay’ is truly priceless!
The words ‘I love you’
Anytime, anywhere, and, I suspect, any age – hearing your kids say the words “I love you” is worth more than any treasure this world can give. From my perspective at least, it’s especially breathtaking when it’s followed by the word ‘Daddy.’
Seeing them laugh and play with their friends
As parents of a couple of pretty shy kids, this Subaru commercial just says it all!
Watching kids discover something amazing for the first time
Whether it’s a movie I loved as a kid, or a favorite food or activity, introducing our kids to awesome, amazing things is one of parenting’s great joys.
That look in their eyes when they beat me at something
I’m as competitive as they come. I don’t like to be beaten at anything. Even if I’m inexperienced or just plain horrible at something and have absolutely no business winning, I still don’t like to lose, even to my wife (sorry, Honey, but you know it’s true!). It bugs me, gets in my craw. But when my kids manage to take a round of whatever game we’re playing, then smile real wide and even rub it in a little, I can’t explain it, but that ‘loss’ is really a ‘win’ for me.
The ‘family hug’
Maybe I’ve just gotten home from work, or maybe we just feel like it, buts sometimes my wife and I will just stop what we are doing and give each other a hug. Ultimately, one or more of the kids will wrap their little arms around our legs and look up at us with a big grin on their face. Those are the times that we know that they know they are safe, loved, and protected. They won’t forget that, and neither will we.
Greetings after absence
I’ll never get tired of coming home to screams of ‘Daddy, Daddy!!’ then giant hugs all around. I’ll never get tired of it, but there will come a day when I won’t have a choice.
The weight of responsibility
I remember how safe my parents made my sister and I feel as children. When my dad drove us somewhere, it never occurred to me that we could have an accident. When we were at home, it never occurred to me, at least in any serious, worrisome way, that someone could break into our house and do us harm. Our dad was our rock, our mom the tender nurturer, our home a safe haven of refuge where we could enjoy being kids. As an adult, even with the bittersweet thought that I will never again have those childhood feelings of safety and security, the fact that WE are now responsible for keeping OUR kids safe, for creating that sense of security in them, is breathtaking. May God help us be up to the task.
Part of me looks back with nostalgia to the days when it was just me and my wife. We could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to. No babysitters. No sibling spats to break up. No crazy messes to clean up. But parenting is, ultimately, the sacred duty borne out of this institution of marriage. All too soon there will be plenty of time for just my wife and I. Sure, right now it’s a lot of work, a lot of responsibility. But those amazing moments that take our breath away make it all worthwhile.