I gripped the sides of the box tightly and tried valiantly to fight back tears.
I knew this day was coming. In fact I had known for 19 years that one day my oldest son would leave home.
That day has seemed so far away. When I was in the midst of the chaos and business of family life I didn’t realize how fast the years were flying by. Now the day was here. My son was leaving for university TODAY!
Childhood is so fleeting
I wondered how it was possible. Wasn’t it just yesterday that he had gone to Kindergarten? How could this day have arrived so fast?
Do you still have children at home? Can I encourage you to stop for a moment. Take a deep breath and make up your mind to treasure the moments you have with your kids right now. All too soon it will be you holding that box and wondering where on earth the last 18 years went.
We all know that childhood passes by in a flash, but when you are in the midst of the business that comes with parenting it can be really hard to appreciate our children right where they are. Here’s six tips to help you treasure all those moments.
1. Learn a little about child development
Understanding what stage of development your children are at will help you understand their behavior. For example toddlers are at the stage when they are developing a sense of self, so for them resistance is normal and healthy. That was a huge revelation for me. Once I understood this I was able to deal with tantrums, and defiance calmly and accept that this was just a stage. Well most of the time anyway!
I would highly recommend the free printable child development sheets from Iowa State University. These are the best free resources I have discovered to date.
They cover every age and stage from birth to age 11. Each sheet gives an overview of the physical, mental, emotional and social development for a particular stage. They also provide ideas for parents and suggestions for age appropriate books and toys.
2. Enjoy each stage as it comes and make the most of the present
Each stage has its own set of joys and challenges. I know that when you are in the midst of the “terrible twos” it can be tempting to wish the time away. Instead why not focus on the things you can do now with your children and enjoy those to the full. If you have an infant put aside worries about housework and enjoy cuddling your baby. There will come a time when you can no longer snuggle with your child for extended periods of time.
If you have a preschooler enjoy spending time with him or her. There will come a time when your child doesn’t want to spend every waking moment with you.
If you have teens enjoy their sense of humor and energy. Before you know it they will be heading off to university and you will miss the noise and mess.
At the moment my boys are young adults who have recently entered the workforce. We don’t see them very often, but I cherish the conversations we have as they discover their place in the world. I’m enjoying the time we have together right now.
3. Be realistic about your child’s needs and what that means for you as a parent
Some ages and stages are more demanding than others. If you are parenting a newborn it is probably not the best time to be taking on extra responsibilities!
If you are parenting preschoolers you will need a lot of energy and patience. You will probably want to create a simple schedule and keep outside activities to a minimum.
There is plenty of time to do all the things you want once your children are older. You can have it all, but some of your dreams may have to wait a few years.
4. Remember it is just a stage
Some ages and stages are very challenging, but they will pass.
I remember the mess and chaos of those early years. Toys and clutter seemed to fill every level surface.
One time my sons decorated the wallpaper with crayons!
Another time they decided to see what happens when you put gum in your hair.
These were very normal things for children their age to do. There will be days when the noise and mayhem may drive you crazy, but I promise it will pass.
There will come a time when your children will learn to clean up after themselves (yup honest!).
There will come a time when your surly uncommunicative teen will grow up and start talking to you again.
Hang in there. Talk to other parents who have been there. Recognize this is entirely normal. It is just a stage. It will pass.
5. Treasure the moments you have together
As much as possible put aside distraction and simply enjoy what you are doing together in the moment.
Take the time to really notice your children while they are still with you. Be conscious of the dimples that appear when your baby smiles at you, how your preschooler’s hand feels in yours, or how your teenage daughter looks when talking animatedly about a certain someone at school.
6. Find a way to record it
If you enjoy writing use a journal to create a record of your days with your children. Write about the special moments you have with your children
- Record the funny and insightful things they say
- Describe the way they looked.
- Record the things you love about having a child that age.
If writing isn’t your thing keep a camera handy. Snap a picture when your child smears Vaseline all over their head! Record the amazing fort your children build in the living room. Take pictures of the time they decided to roll in the mud.
Try and capture the look of enchantment when they hold a kitten or spot a rainbow. It’s amazing how many things we can forget. One day these journal entries and/or photographs will hold a treasure trove of memories both for you and your children.
Our children are precious gifts! Times passes by in a flash, so treasure the precious moments with your children while they are still with you.
What ages are your children? What do you enjoy most about your life with them right now? What do you want your children to remember about this time in their life?