It goes by so fast.
It seems like yesterday.
Every parent has endured a barrage of these sayings from an older, wiser generation and wondered, “What the hell are they talking about?” The truth is, as usual, they are right…sort of. They are on the “short years” side and you, my friend, are on the “long days” side. All parents get to the other side eventually, that’s how time works. But it might feel like an eternity, that’s how parenting works. Instead of simply enduring these long days, how do we find the joy in them? I’m certainly no expert, but there are 3 lessons I’ve learned on my parenting journey thus far:
One: Challenge your kids…sometimes
Know when to push your kids…and when not to. I’m notorious for suckering my family into all-day adventures that I sell as a “short day hike” or a “quick bike ride.” This summer our family spent a weekend in Telluride for the epic bluegrass festival. We took a break from the festival to go for a day hike with our two girls, 5 and 3. After some iPhone research I picked a short, 3.3 mile hike in mountain village. The best part was we took a gondola ride to the top so the entire trail was “downhill” back to our hotel. Unfortunately, “downhill” doesn’t necessarily translate to “easy” in toddler world. After a few slips, slides, and falls I put the 3 year old in the backpack. And you guessed it, the 5 year old wanted a free ride too. But we pushed her to keep hiking on her own. 3 hours later after countless snack breaks, rest stops, meltdowns, and showers of encouragement we made it down. And I didn’t carry her a single step. She tells everyone how she hiked 3 miles all by herself. 1 mile per hour and I’ve never been more proud.
Last week she turned 6 and we bought her first “gear” bike (#1 on her wish list). I tried to teach her how the gears could make pedaling up and down hills easier and more efficient. She screamed and threw her new bike in the garage pledging never to ride it again. Whoops. After the obligatory “space”, I encouraged her to try her new bike again and not to use the gears. To my surprise she did and loves it. For now it’s a single speed and stays in her favorite gear, “number 2.” Some battles are best left for another day.
Two: Make sweet memories…all the time
Opportunities exist all the time to make lasting memories with your kids, and not all are intentional. I recently took my family to Seattle on vacation. We saw the famous fish throwers at Pike Place Market, ate lunch at the top of a giant spinning Space Needle, watched salmon swim upstream, dug for sea creatures on an endless beach, SUP’d with bald eagles flying overhead, and took a jet boat tour through a rocky pass of Puget Sound. Lots of fodder for memories right? When we got home and Gus (grandpa) met us at the airport, the kids ran to him screaming their favorite vacation memory, “Guess what Gus?! Daddy got pulled over by a police officer!” A week full of new experiences and they remember dad speeding in the rental car.
Other memories are intentional. A few nights ago we had friends over for a campfire and s’mores in the backyard. Despite the glow of the fire we could see countless stars popping out in the moonless night sky. My 3-year-old daughter (pic above after eating marshmallows then face-planting in the grass) sat in my lap as I held her sticky Marshmallow hand and traced the outline of the big dipper. “See Scout, doesn’t it look like a big spoon?” To which she replied, “No dad, it’s God’s ice cream scoop!” Can’t argue with that, peanut.
Three: Try not to yell…ever.
Not much explanation needed for this one (and I diligently work on it daily). Most of my regrets as a parent so far are because of yelling. I’ve always admired parents that never have to yell to get their point across. Yelling begets more yelling. It’s simple really, if you have to yell to get your kids to listen guess what you have to do next time you want them to listen? Discipline is good, yelling it never is.
For me, trying to follow these simple parenting principles are difficult but rewarding. What are yours? Let the debate begin. What does your parenting journey look like from long days to short years? Our parents surely have valuable insight too. They have washed away the long days with a flood of warm, fond memories of raising us. They earned it, and all too soon so will you.