With our oldest daughter graduating from high school this month, I’ve been a bit reflective. Going through hundreds of her childhood photos and choosing our favorite ones to display on her graduation table will do that to you!
I started reminiscing about what we’ve done as we parented our girls that I’m so glad – standing on this side and looking back – that we did. I came up with this list of twelve in hopes that they’ll be helpful and encouraging to anyone who might be parenting an 8-year-old instead of an 18-year-old.
The list of things I didn’t get right is much longer than twelve. I lost my temper, nagged, and talked when I should have listened much more often than I’d like to admit.
I don’t tend, however, to dwell on regrets, so there’s no post on “24 Things I Wish I’d Done in Parenting” in the works at this point! Today’s focus is on the positive.
1. Established family traditions.
Every Christmas Eve, we go to a restaurant downtown for dessert. On Mother’s Day, we walk on the beach after dinner. We have specific meals on certain holidays. I love the continuity of celebrating in the same way year after year.
And while I enjoy traditions as much as anyone, I’ve also realized that families outgrow traditions. When the girls were younger, we’d go to a baseball game on the 4th of July. The girls would get their faces painted, and we’d stay for the fireworks after the game was over. But a couple of years ago, we let that tradition go. No one was that interested anymore.
One of the things I look forward to about a change of life seasons is establishing new traditions around the times when we’re together!
2. Attended our daughters’ ball games, concerts, and recitals.
Okay, some of the piano recitals were looong, especially when our girls were young. The order of the program was typically from beginner students to the most advanced. That meant they were done in the first ten minutes, but there was still another hour and a half to sit through!
However, watching the girls participate in their chosen activities has given us so much to talk about with them. We have rehashed many a basketball game while sitting in our living room! They also learned some great life lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, and fairness (or lack thereof).
3. Took them on trips.
The older our girls have gotten, the more we value experiences with them over physical gifts. Some of our best memories have been made as we visited other cities and parts of the country as a family.
4. Read aloud to them.
This one started when our girls were little. I read aloud at bedtime for many years. During the preschool years, we’d read aloud at naptime, and during our homeschooling years, I’d read aloud after lunch. Both of our girls continue to love reading, and now that they’re older, we sometimes read the same books. It’s fun to talk about the stories we enjoy, and to share book recommendations.
5. Made them take piano lessons.
I know there are people who would disagree with this one, and I’m not saying it’s for every family. However, there are very few activities we’ve insisted that our girls participate in, but this was one of them. Before they were even old enough to take lessons, my husband and I agreed that we would make this a priority.
It definitely wasn’t always easy!! There’s been plenty of moaning and groaning about having to practice. But not only do they both now play the piano well, it also allowed them to join the school handbell choir and learn to play the saxophone since they could already read music. Beyond that, they have a gift they can use in ministry for the rest of their lives.
6. Ate meals together as a family.
This one is rather cliche, but I do think it’s important. We have had some wonderful conversations over the years around the supper table. And the point comes – sooner than I thought it would – that you don’t have the opportunity to do this. Sports practices, ball games, and teens working a job mean the family meals don’t happen as often as they used to – which makes me appreciate it all the more now when they do!
7. Put fruit in their lunch every day.
So this one might sound silly, but I am not the best at serving vegetables to my family. Our girls’ tastes have matured a little bit over the years, but we’re still not a family of veggie lovers. However, from kindergarten on, I put some type of fruit in their lunch daily, most often apple slices. Now they actually choose fruit as a snack and at other meals besides lunch.
8. Was available when they got out of school.
For years, I drove them home from school, and would get to hear all the stories from the day. Now that they drive themselves home from school, I make it a point to be at the house to greet them.
I know it’s not feasible for everyone, but being available when our girls get out of school has been a blessing. They usually unload all the excitements and disappointments right after they walk in the door, and I’m thankful that I’m usually able to hear all those stories.
9. Taught them how to handle money.
We started them at a young age with the give, save, and spend envelopes to use when they got paid for chores around the house. After their freshman year of high school (about 15 1/2 years old), they got a student checking account with a debit card.
Each month, we deposit into their account the amount of money we’d be spending on them anyway (clothing, money for school/youth group activities, etc.) They’re responsible for budgeting that money. They also understand that if they want more money, they can get a job and work for it.
Hopefully (fingers crossed!) they’ll continue into adulthood with good money habits!
10. Prayed for wisdom.
The truth is that I didn’t do this as much as I should have. But when I did, I know that God answered that prayer. This is one of the things I’m glad I did that will continue to be so important as we transition into our girls’ young adult years.
11. Loved their dad.
Our marriage isn’t perfect, but our children have seen us enjoying each other and prioritizing our time together. And this is even more important now that the empty nest season is getting closer every year!
12. Encouraged them in their personal walk with God.
From regular church attendance to Awana clubs, praying together to reading Bible stories aloud, we’ve sought to teach our children about God and His Word. Some of our after dinner, around-the-table conversations became teachable moments for spiritual truths.
Both of our girls asked Jesus to be their Savior at an early age. It’s one of the greatest blessings as a parent to see your children growing in their faith and making it their own.
While I’ll continue to be a mom for as long as I live, the hands on, daily work of mothering will definitely be less than it used to be. I’m challenging myself to use the time I have left with them in our home to invest in these precious souls. Let’s be intentional in doing the things we’ll be glad we did another ten years from now!
Tracey, I could not love this more. Sharing soon! And thinking of you extra this month!!
Thank you, Elizabeth! I know you’ve already walked this road and know exactly how I feel 🙂
I love this list, and I’m glad that I already do most of them! But I do have a question: how did you get your girls to actually practice the piano? My children take lessons, but getting them to practice is so hard.
When they were younger, we just made it a scheduled part of their afternoon. It was basically like part of their homework (or part of their school day during the years we homeschooled). Again, when their scheduled time came to practice they might complain or ask to skip a day 🙂 but I was usually pretty firm in just making them sit down and do it. Some teachers wanted them to practice for a certain amount of time, while others wanted them to practice each piece a certain number of times.
Once they hit high school, it pretty much became their responsibility to fit in piano practice around their other activities. By that point, they realized that lack of practice effected whatever performance they were preparing for, which led them to practice in order to avoid potential embarrassment 🙂 Our oldest daughter just stopped taking lessons this school year as a senior (just no room in her schedule with other activities and working), but she still plays in church and occasionally for school events.
But you’re right – making them practice can be hard on mama!!
YESYESYES re: this whole list! Traveling, teaching them about money, and especially being available when they get home from school were the 3 that stood out to me in particular. I remember when my kids were babies, someone saying that when her kids were in school, that’s when she would choose to go back to work full-time; another wiser, more experienced mom offered the idea that it’s actually more important to be there for them when they get home from school during the junior high and high school years, because that’s when your kids will need you the most and ask for you the least. Your presence will mean everything. I’ve never forgotten that, and it’s why I’m so adamant about keeping all of the fitness classes I teach except for one during morning school hours.
That was a wise mom who shared that advice! One of our best connection times is right after school.
I think teens can also be open to late-night chats, but I have to say that I’m an early-to-bed kind of person, so I have missed out on that opportunity! 😉