Several years ago, I heard a wise man proclaim to an audience of parents, “Parents, you cannot afford to be tired.” His statement surprised me. I asked myself, “What’s he talking about!? As a parent, I am almost always tired.” His statement is true though. Parents never do or should “clock out.” Once they bring a child into their home, they are that child’s parent, 24/7. They are responsible for that child and his/her welfare until the day they die.
As a girl, I always believed that my Mom and Dad would be my parents until I was 18, and then I wouldn’t need them anymore. Ironically, I needed them not as much, but more, once I turned 18. Life became more and more challenging and I would often turn to my parents to vent fear or frustration and to seek out their assurance and advice. I cultivated a deep and trusting relationship with my parents as a young girl because my parents did everything in their power to cultivate a close and trusting relationship with me.
As a young girl, my Mom willingly let me make the worst kind of messes in her kitchen because I wanted to learn to cook. She recognized that it was important for me to learn how to cook, so she would give me tips on cooking and even help me clean up the kitchen once my “experiments” were over. My mother also taught me the importance of keeping things clean and taught me how to clean. She even coined the phrase, “A clean home is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.” (To this day, I believe she is 100% correct about that.)
My mother also had what she called “The Star Chart” for my brother and me. If we cleaned our room, or did a special favor (like brushing mom’s hair), or practicing piano for the day, we got a star on our chart. Twenty stars equaled a new game or toy or $10. You wouldn’t believe how many times my brother and I chose a game over the $10. Monopoly was our favorite. That’s how we spent almost all of our free time – playing games.
My Dad taught me the importance of family time. Even though he worked long hours, he would always make time for our family. We would go up to the mountains, go fishing, go on a picnic, go to our local theater to see a play, or we would simply take a walk or take a bike ride. When I was 12, when the cattiness of girls really starts coming out, my Mom was there to listen to me cry. My Dad would take me on Daddy/Daughter dates. As the years grew, my relationship with them only strengthened. They were loving, devoted examples to me as a child, and now they are loving and devoted examples to me as an adult.
Now I’m the Parent
With my own children I have realized the importance of quality time that often comes only with large amounts of quantity time. When my children were little, they often accompanied me everywhere I went (even the bathroom), the way little ducklings follow the Mother duck. I would listen to hours of their sweet little prattling as I built puzzles or forts with them. I would listen to their slow, steady rhythmic breathing as they fell asleep during story time, and caress their precious fingers and trace the outline of their faces as I kissed them good night just one more time.
Now that my children are older, our relationship has changed. They stopped wanting to follow me into the bathroom years ago, they don’t want me to read children’s books to them anymore, but they crave the affection and attention that my husband and I give them in different ways. They like to talk to us, and I’m glad they do. That’s the only way we know whether they are happy or sad, and the only way we know what’s going on in their lives. We attend their extracurricular activities, and spend one on one time with them. My hope is that once they hit 18, they’ll realize they still need us.
Be at the “crossroads” in the lives of your children. Be there when they are making important decisions in their lives or even not so important decisions. I love being home when my children walk in the door from school. The look on their faces tells me everything I need to know about their day. I love dinner time, when we catch up on the events of the day. Sometimes not all of us are together at dinner, but we are always together at breakfast, and those are cherished memories that I’m glad we’re still making.
Here is a great quote on “Motherhood.” But as you read it, think “Fathers,” because it certainly applies to them as well!
“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” – David O. McKay