My youngest daughter, Kate, turned 8 this past Friday. For her birthday, she asked me to come to lunch with her at the elementary school cafeteria. Although they always offer such fine dining choices (like square pizza with a side of kernel corn), I opted to bring Chick-fil-a. It was a big hit! Maybe it was the french fries or the chocolate shake, but it looked like filet mignon compared to the cafeteria food.
While we’re eating, one of Kate’s friends leans over and says to me, “Can you believe Kate is halfway to driving?” Wait, what? First of all, what seven-year-old kid says stuff like that to a dad having a special moment with his baby girl? She was right, though. I dropped my chicken nugget as the reality set-in. Time is flying by. My baby is growing up. With two older children, you realize how quickly everything in life seems to fly by – a new shoe size, a new school grade, a new sports uniform – and soon you are an empty-nester.
In response, I have resolved that there are 10 things I can do for each of my children every day to prepare them for not only driving but also for all other independence that seems to be sneaking up on us so quickly:
- Pray – Placing my hand on their head, I pray over each one of my kids every night. Sometimes it is a long prayer; sometimes short. But, it is not the words as much as it is the assurance that God is with them and I am placing them in His hands. This helps them understand that God will always be with them, and I will always love them.
- Love your spouse – The way we treat our spouse is modeling for them conditional or unconditional love. They are seeing what true relationship looks like and what marriage should look like one day. Little eyes are always watching.
- Spiritual conversations – Every day I can say something about God. Even if it is simply thanking Him for our blessings as we drive to school or praying for someone who is sick. Taking our kids to church (and making it a priority over gymnastics, soccer, etc.) communicates what is really important and what will last.
- Be present – With our busy lives, it is hard to have time with our kids. Statistics are staggering about time between parents and children. Being physically and emotionally present is so important. We can step away from our phone and just be fully present.
- Create memories – These are the “good ol’ days.” The things we do with our kids each day are what they will look back and remember. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just takes some initiative. Play “tickle monster” or something else that creates memories.
- Be patient – Every day, we can be patient. Sometimes, we bring our work home with us. We are in “go” mode, and we forget they are kids. Children are still learning and growing. Be patient and embrace each child (as well as each moment) with love.
- Teach truth – Now this is a big one: who will teach your kids truth if you don’t? Don’t outsource this one. Every day we must give our kids some wisdom or a nugget of truth that will help them. Even if the subject is difficult, speak truth.
- Challenge – This is a big one. Remember, the goal is not just to raise great kids, but to raise great adults. Many times we want to “baby” our kids, but they need to be challenged. Find some way to push them each day. Whether homework, chores, money or something out of their comfort zone. Help them push past fear and see they can do it.
- Believe in them – This is huge. Every day, affirm your kids. They hear and see enough about how they don’t measure up. Social media has put this in their face. They are always comparing themselves to others whether grades, looks, friends and more. Every day, give them a word of affirmation and let them know you believe in them.
- Love them unconditionally – Above all else, show them love every day. Not just the high five when they get 100 on a paper, but even the hug when they have a hard day. Especially the hug when they have a hard day. Let them know you will always be there for them. This will do so much for their confidence and your conversations as they grow up.
10 things. These 10 things will impact your child, your marriage, and generations. They don’t take a lot of time and they don’t have to cost anything; yet, the power of these 10 is transformational. I believe that most families are so busy with life that they miss these. They invest in the wrong things. I believe so many parents are so busy checking their phones that they miss what is right in front of them. They are so busy with their own life (or watching other people live theirs) that they miss the joy and opportunity of their own kids. Let’s be different.
Last weekend, we had the Daddy / Daughter Ball. I dressed up, then went to pick up flowers, came home, rang the doorbell and waited as my girls came to the door for our “date.” When the door opened, they looked so stunning. I thought, “God, don’t let me miss it.” Let me embrace each moment I have with them because one day it will be some boy who is ringing the door bell and I’ll be watching them drive off.
Every day. This is more important than the time you spend checking Facebook or your Instagram feed; your sports scores or stock returns. In fact, you can do all 10 things in probably the same amount (or maybe even less) time, but the impact is monumental. Maybe your kids are already driving – you can still do these 10 each day. Just remember, what you give time to is what you value. Let your children know you love and value God, your spouse, and them and you will leave a legacy that will far exceed anything you can imagine. Don’t settle for square pizza and corn for your family when you can have Chick-fil-a mignon, right? Make a difference – every day!