I read a quote today by Charles R. Swindoll: "Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children". How sweet; its such a nice reflection on how we as parents impact our children's lives daily. However, as I was thinking about my day today, I realized that the tirade I went on this morning when we were late leaving for the bus stop is not a memory I want my children depositing in their long term savings account. The nagging at the table last night to finish their dinner in under an hour isn't either. But how do you balance out those necessary parenting moments, that get your children to school on time and keep them nourished, while providing those good memory moments too?
Recently I've felt like I spend all of my energy just getting my boys to do the basic requirements of life and it involves a lot of instruction, reminding, nagging, and finally yelling. My best friend, who also has two boys ages 7 and 4, has told me that she is "really just trying to keep them alive right now". She counts her day as a success if they all got where they needed to be dressed and fed and arrived there and home again safely. That is not to say there are no good moments ever; my friend and I both share the same bedtime routine with our children of reading books and snuggling, but is that enough? Are those brief moments each day of calm happiness enough to fill up our children's memory bank?
I attended a talk by Dr. Stephen Treat, CEO of the Council for Relationships, a few weeks back and his "take-home" message was to make time to "peerage" with your children. His emphasis was to not spend every moment of the day parenting your children; there should be some amount of time each day where you are interacting with them, talking with them, or playing with them on their level as a peer. There should be time that you spend with your children where you're not reminding them of the things they haven't done or aren't doing correctly. When I think about the time I spend with my kids, I realize how much time I do spend parenting and when I'm not parenting I'm just background noise cleaning up or prepping for the next activity. Sure, its necessary, but its not much fun for either one of us. But creating a "peerage" situation seems like it takes planning and forethought and I'm not sure how much energy I have left for that. I tried to plan a special evening last night of an early dinner and PJs for the three of us followed by snuggling in front of a Charlie Brown Halloween special. But before we had even finished dinner, there was yelling and whining because my kids weren't following the plan and we were running out of time before bed.
I've had the "peerage" advice in my head for a few weeks and have been trying to pay more attention to the quality of time I spend with my kids. But reading that Swindoll quote about memories really put it into perspective for me. What do I want my children to remember from their childhood? They'll probably remember the Charlie Brown special, but they won't remember watching it with me because I was cleaning up the mess they left at the dinner table. Are they going to remember that I got them to school on time everyday, or is there a better memory of us belting out an 80's rock tune in the car together while we were waiting for the bus? I think its those hidden moments - those unplanned opportunities that make the best memories. I'm guessing the quantity of time doesn't matter as much as the quality of time for peerage. So, those silly conversations we have in car line and our impromptu kitchen dance parties when a good song comes on Pandora should be worth something. I just need to remember to look for those hidden moments each day.