Time is What Makes a Great Parent
Some of my fondest memories as a child were the times of my dad sounding reveille on weekend mornings to rise everyone out of bed at the crack of dawn to head the hour into the city for a softball tournament. I remember the times of the car rides across the country to see my grandparents in Buffalo, New York where we would sing as a family at the top of our lungs to whatever old country tune struck our fancy. I remember the times of mom and daughter shopping trips or movie nights while dad was away on a hunting trip. I remember the times my dad would take us hunting even though he knew we'd be too loud he'd never see anything to actually shoot. I remember the times of my dad coming home from work and sitting in that driveway for hours catching all three of us. I remember the times of my dad parking his semi truck in the high school parking lot so he wouldn't miss one of our ball games and then he would drive the semi an hour back to the plant before finally coming home for good at almost 10 o clock at night just to have to get up before 5 to do it all over again. I remember the times my mom, who is one of the hardest workers I know, making sure she arranged her work around our games so she could get out early enough to watch us play. The list of times I remember with my parents as a child growing up could go on and on, but there's always one trend-they made the time and they made it count.
With each new generation of parents, there is change, different factors that change our journeys, and usually we have ideas of how we want to do things differently, some even better, than our parents did, but this is one very vital value that I hope is not lost as as my generation raises the next generation. Time is something we can never get more of whether it's in the end when we look back on our lives or when we look back on our children's youth. Time will pass and there's nothing we can change about that, but what we make of that time is what matters. Some may argue that the quanity of time is more important, and it definitely has its place and importance, but I think the quality ranks higher. Some would argue that we should change the quanity with the life choices we make, but even with my own parents who at times worked long days and hours, it's not necessarily the quanity that defined the time of my childhood but the quality of that time.
Even though my mom was able to stay home with us until I was ten, the majority of my childhood memories actually come from after that time. I read something recently that hinted that choosing to work is an excuse to take a break from our kids and do something for ourselves. Many parents have to work, but that doesn't mean their children are getting less of a quality childhood. I am working mom with lots of working mom friends, and the balance is hard, probably harder than anything any of us have ever done in our lives. No, as working mothers we don't get to spend as much time with our children as a mother that chooses or has the opportunity to stay home or work less, but I'm confident that the time we do spend with them is valuable.
As I enter into a time in my children's childhoods where they're starting to have their own interests and activities, I have a totally new appreciation for the choices, sacrifices, and dedication my parents made to my sisters and me. I look back at my own parents and my friends' parents that I grew up with and I know the capability to do what I want to do, to be the parent I want to be, is possible because they lead the way by example.
We cannot get any lost time back; we can't get back the baby, the adorable toddler, the innocence child, or the growing adolescent that they are or once were. I think one of the most valuable things I learned from my parents is to live in the moment and make the time we do get to spend together count. There are so many choices and opinions when it comes to parenting, but I don't think any of them are more important than the choice of time with our children.
As a working mom, I am constantly asking myself how can I make this little slip of time we have together whether it's an hour or so on a week night, the weekend, or those few weeks of vacation a year meaningful time with them. I'm as guilty as the rest of them of turning the TV on sometimes for them, sitting on the computer while they play,or staring into space while they wreak chaos on my house because I'm too tired to distract them with something else. But you can bet I stop and reflect often what have we done together that shows them I love them, that I want to spend time with them, that I didn't let a whole week slip by dominated by the stresses of work, other responsibilities, and just the busy schedule of life. Did we read books together, did we cook or bake together, did we get up and dance to some random song on the radio, did they know I was there cheering them on at their latest activity, did we go to the library or park, did we take a family outing somewhere, explore something new, color or create something together?
I look back at my parents with their jobs, their hours, their own hobbies and activities, and they could have so easily said they were too tired or that it was too much. Never once did they turn down an activity or extracurricular we wanted to do because it was starting to become too much for them to balance or handle. They could have just been good parents, taking care of us financially and with the basic child upkeep of feeding and bathing us. The could have been good parents because they loved us, asked about our day, and maybe watched some TV with us at the end of the day, but they weren't good parents. They were great parents because no matter how much was on their plate, how tired they were, how overwhelmed they possibly felt, they made time for us and they made it count. It's not the passage of time, how long we've been parents, or even necessarily how much time we spend with our kids, that makes a parent a great parent. It's making the time we do get with them count, making it something valuable to them and even ourselves that I think makes a parent a great parent.