What is the most valuable gift you have to offer your kids?
Is it a home where each of your children has his or her bedroom? Is it giving a cell phone to your 9-year-old daughter who hasn’t stopped begging you for one since her friend got one? Is it taking your family on an extravagant vacation? Is it buying your 16-year-old son a brand-new Camaro? Is it making sure your children have the latest video game console, tablet, or gadget? Is it allowing your teenager to have no curfew so that they can be free and do their own thing?
Think about your own life. Think about your own parents. Do you remember the gifts that they gave you? Maybe a few stick out. I can remember what I was given on a few Christmas’s and birthdays, but honestly, very few. I’m pretty sure I don’t have any of those presents still, even if my garage looks like I may! Those things that were given were material items that have come and gone.
It doesn’t mean at the time I didn’t appreciate them. But when I think about my parents, I don’t define them by the material gifts that they gave me. Why? Because they gave me so much more in one area that many parents today are not willing to give. They gave me their time.
I wasn’t the center of their attention by any means. My parents both worked and I am one of 5 kids. However, my parents made time for myself and my siblings. Time spent shooting baskets. Time spent playing a game of touch football. Time working in the garden. Time listening to sermons and talking about books. Time at the dinner table. Time fishing. Time trying to find our 3 pygmy goats that we never could figure out how to contain. Time learning how to trap and hunt. Time taking us to sporting events. Time involving us in their hobbies and passions.
As I previously mentioned, though my parents both worked while we were growing up, what I remember is spending memorable, life-shaping time with them. I’ve heard people talk about when their father came home from work, they were not to talk to him. He wanted time by himself. Or even more common today are the parents who both work, get home at 6:30-7:00 p.m., feed their children and then put them to bed!
However, that was never the case in our home. Though I’m sure my parents were tired from a full day of work, I have no recollection of being an annoyance or nuisance to my parents. (They did a good job hiding it!) This is true with my grandparents and great-grandparents too! Our time together was talking and interacting. It was sitting around talking about the day while enjoying a bowl of vanilla ice cream, topped with the strawberries that we all just picked together.
The time we spent together shaped our manners, our thoughts, our faith, our hobbies and our passions. The same is true for how you spend or don’t spend your time with your children. There’s no such thing as neutrality in anything. Not spending time with your kids says something. What you spend your time doing with your kids says something.
You never realize how fast and how precious time is until you have children. All of a sudden life seems to go at warp speed. Time is precious. Our time is limited. Each of us are only given so may days on this Earth before we fade away like grass as the Bible mentions in multiple places.
There are many temptations, especially with the internet and technology, to be distracted instead of spending time with your kids. It’s easy to fall prey to mindless internet searching or living vicariously through Facebook.
Think about the last time you took your kids to the park, went to the store, or even went to a restaurant. Did you put your phones away and spend time talking with each other? We’ve all seen families who sit together but do not engage in meaningful conversations because they are consumed by their phones.
Or the last time you took your kids to the park. Did you get your phone out as you shooed them away to go play? I know, I know, sometimes you need a break and I get that… but trust me, you don’t need the phone. Enjoy the scenery. Smile at your kids when they look to see if you are watching them! You may be tired but sit on the merry-go-round and let the kids do the work!
When is the last time you took a hike as a family? Or read a book out loud as a family? Or played a friendly game of monopoly? Or went fishing? Or set up a tent and slept under the stars? Or went to a baseball game? Or sang hymns together while doing the dishes?
Life is busy, for everyone. It’s very easy to be distracted by all that life has to offer. I think sometimes we want to make up for the time we don’t have or are not willing to give to our children with buying material things or even experiences for our children.
When in reality, what your kids need and want most is something only you can give them, your time. Our time is limited, but why not give your most precious asset to your most precious gift in life? I’ve yet to hear someone on their death bed wish they hadn’t spent so much time with their children. Have you?
Then what are you waiting for?