Not long after our first child was born my sister said, “Raising children is about making memories.”
I took her words to heart and tried to create warm, fuzzy memories with my children. Fun days at the park. A picnic at the lake. The birthday party. Tents under the dining room table. You know, those picture perfect memories that we post on our social media ad nauseam.
However, we often forget that the “not so good” moments are also filed away in our children’s brain. The “perfect” vacation that ends up in a nightmare because we set high expectations for the trip and life didn’t go as planned. The day when you got home from work and realized you had forgotten to pick up the cake mix for class cupcakes the next day. The note from school that changed the time of an event and you arrived 30 minutes late. Our reactions to those events are also filed away in our child’s memory.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Your Mistakes
And we can beat ourselves up over our reactions. What I think we fail to realize is that every moment we spend with our children creates a memory--good or bad. When we ask how their day went at the dinner table or play cards on a rainy afternoon, we are making a memory. When we don’t meltdown because something goes wrong, we are making a memory.
Some of my favorite memories are not the big parties or the grand vacations. They are the quiet moments when I spent one on one time with my children. Those days when I grabbed the opportunity to listen are special. But, grabbing those opportunities takes effort.
Always Be Looking For Opportunities to Connect
Matthew, our oldest, opens up when we it’s just the two of us in a car riding somewhere. We discuss issues in his life, struggles he is facing, joys he has experienced. His love of “riding” has been there from a very young age when he would ride in my lap as we drove the tractor. He has always been happiest moving. When he is home and about to run an errand I’ll offer to ride along. We usually end up taking the long way back because we just enjoy the time of sharing.
Hannah, on the other hand, likes to curl up in her bed while I sit in her papasan chair. In the safety of her bedroom we can have those conversations that she needs to have. Her frustration that certain plans didn’t go like she wanted them to. The girls who she thought were her friends but left her out of an activity. Those special conversations often took place in the evening because mornings are just not her time. So, after dinner when she’s laying in bed playing on her computer I’ll stop in and talk.
During these times nothing is off limits, and it is a judgment free zone. I don’t always like what they have to say, but they know that this time of conversation is safe and that I’m going to listen. Sometimes I may give advice. Sometimes I may just tell them I love them and that tomorrow will be a better day. Sometimes I have to tell them they should probably have handled a situation differently. The point is that I am there. I am listening. And they know that no matter how bad something is, they are loved.
In today’s world of crazy schedules it is important to carve out those memories that are not based on the latest “big” event. As a parent I must remember to carve out memories of quiet time when I’m one on one with my child and we talk about whatever is on their mind. I must meet my child in his/her safe zone, not mine.
Don’t Let Regret Overshadow Your Memories
Bill and I are experiencing the empty nest. This season of life is often freeing for parents because we now have time to do all of those bucket list items we dreamed of doing while our children were growing up. The drawback to the empty next is too much time to think. “Did I fail my children?” “What would I do differently?”
The problem with reflection is we often start second guessing ourselves. But, you can’t change history. Fretting and wishing will not change the past. Yes, there are areas that I would change if I were raising my children over again. But, I’m not. They are grown.
We are told to “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Let’s remember that this training includes making memories that leave a lasting positive impression. This training includes recognizing our children’s personalities and preferences and meeting our children’s needs based on who they are not who we are or what image we want to display on social media.
Every moment with your child is a memory. The memory you choose to make with them is up to you. We will all have some regrets but don’t let any of those regrets be because you lost the opportunity to have those quiet moment memories.