Many people say, “Parenting is a thankless job”. In a way, it is. There are many times, each day, parents do things for their children, no matter the age, without the words “Thank You” crossing their lips. I say parenting isn’t a thankless job and in fact is a labor of love which pays incredible dividends throughout life. If those of us who are parents, look at it as a privilege and honor, our perspective about this lifetime journey changes drastically. It is only in the moments we sit quietly and watch our children grow and mature do we truly recognize the magnificent transformation of life.
My own family has reached the stage in life where transition feels as if it’s moving at the speed of light. Our children are beginning the process of moving on with their own lives. We have been blessed with friends who are just a few years ahead of us in their parenting journey, which allows me to see what may lie ahead.
Trips to the ocean have always been a part of our family’s activities. Having grown up near the ocean, I felt compelled to make sure there were always enormous amounts of pictures taken to record my own children standing on the same beaches where I played growing up.
As time passed, I realized our plethora of photos always included pictures of my husband standing at the water’s edge with our children. In earlier years, it was just he and our daughter. Then our son came along and there the three of them stood – jumping in the waves. Usually dad was in the middle of the kids, holding each of their hands, for fear the waves knocking them down. Pictures such as these became my personal photo assignment for each of our trips to the ocean. I wanted to see the progression of life from a similar perspective.
On our most recent pilgrimage to the ocean, I began to see the fruits of our parenting labors. Of course I took the usual “dad and kids” photo and saw two young people standing with their father. Life had flown past me and I didn’t realize how quickly.
No longer did my children need their hands held standing by the ocean. They were body surfing and allowing the waves to take them wherever. They were pursuing their own interests by drawing incredible pictures in the sand, which passers-by complemented. They were reading books which taught them about real life, not fantasy.
As I realized where our family was standing in our life journey together, I thought back on how I had heard so many moms throughout life discuss the milestones they couldn’t wait for their kids to reach. You know the ones:
I can’t wait until they can walk.
I can’t wait until they can talk.
I can’t wait until they can read.
I can’t wait until they play soccer.
I can’t wait for the first day of school.
I can’t wait for the first dance.
The list goes on and on. I even heard one parent recently say they couldn’t wait until their kids were completely on their own. Their kids are still in high school!
In this time of reflection I realize, the desire of growth and maturity in our child’s life is necessary. We would never want our child to not reach the full potential it has been gifted by God. That would be selfish. But if we mistaken a natural desire for growth and maturity, with falling into the easy trap of wishing our time with these precious gifts away, we will miss so much.
There are days as parents which seem much longer than the twenty four hours assigned. Days turn into weeks and months, especially when we are traveling the road of hardship and struggles with our kids. Those hardships and struggles are what add seasoning to the good times. It is what balances out life and increases our appreciation for the gifts of our children.
As I watched my family grow on the beach, I celebrated the accomplishment of one of my friend’s adult children. Her daughter had passed her nursing exam, on the first attempt. What a milestone!
While we rejoiced in this accomplishment we both reflected on our parenting and how we realized, even as our children grow older and begin their lives independent of our guidance, we want them to still hang out with us. We want to continue sharing the joy of exploring and sharing life together.
Shouldn’t that be our goal as parents? To raise up well adjusted, life-long learners who want to continue sharing in the joy of family.
If you are a new parent or parent of younger children, each day isn’t easy. You will fall into the “trap” of “I can’t wait until…”. If you are part way through this thing called parenting, you may sometimes want to throw in the towel. Send the kids off and let someone else raise them. Don’t give up. You’re getting close to the end, at least to the end where you are the daily decision maker for your child.
Hang on. A time of fabulous conversation and shared knowledge of life and opinions are on their way. A time where you will once again, want time to stand still and enjoy the moment with your kids.
It will never matter the age of our children. They will always be the best gift ever given to us.