by Bernice Gudgel
WHEN YOUR HOUSE is filled with infants and toddlers and all that comes with them, it seems like you’ll never be done with dirty diapers and sticky walls and sleepless nights. Older parents with clean quiet houses whose kids are grown and out on their own tell you to enjoy every minute because the time will go by so fast, and you think “Yeah, right.”
Then all the sudden your oldest is putting on his Angry Birds backpack and heading out the door to Kindergarten. How did that happen? He was just a baby and then you turn around and he’s going to school? But you don’t really have time to think about that because there are still diapers to change and forts to build and tea parties to prepare at home with his younger siblings.
Your days and weeks and years begin filling up with homework and sleepovers and class field trips. Birthday parties and soccer practices. Then come the summer camps and band fundraisers. And before you know it you’re riding shotgun in the car, gripping the door handle and biting your lip so you won’t say something stupid, while your baby is learning to drive. And as you’re frantically watching the road, you stop and think “How did this happen?!! Where did all those years go?!”
The day your oldest child comes home from high school and starts talking about colleges they want to visit, it finally hits you. Those old people were right! The years went by so fast. Too fast. And now you’re just a year or two away from having your child head out into the world on their own. One day soon they’ll pack up their stuff and go away to college or move into an apartment, and the days of having your family and your home as the center of their lives will be over.
So then you begin wondering if you’ve done enough to prepare them for life on their own. Did you do a good job of this whole parenting thing? What was God thinking to give you the responsibility for these kids anyway?!
If you’re still back in the middle of the crazy, busy years of raising your children, one of the best things you can do now to help make sure your kids are as ready as possible to head out on their own when that day comes is to give them a sense of belonging.
Any basic Psych class will tell you that one of our primary needs as human beings is to have a sense of belonging. We need to know that we mean something to someone. That there are people who care about us. That we belong somewhere. And simply sharing the same last name and living in the same house won’t automatically make that happen. You need to find ways to make sure your kids know you are all a team, unique from everyone else in the world, who love each other and are committed to each other for life.
One of the best ways you can do that is to make sure there are a lot of things you as a family “always do.” Things that become family traditions because you do them over and over. Weekly Family Nights or summer camping trips or neighborhood water fights on the Fourth of July. Making the same Christmas cookies every year or building forts under umbrellas on the front porch on rainy days. It doesn’t matter how serious or silly they are. Just do them! And the more the better.
Each one will help bind your family together and create a strong sense of belonging, which will give your children a huge advantage when they head out into the world on their own. They will have the security of knowing they are loved and that their family will always be an important part of their lives.
Eighteen years. We only get them for eighteen years! And those years go by so fast. Then they head out into the world and their lives will center around other people and other places for the next 60+ years! If that thought freaks you out, take a deep breath and relax. God knew what He was doing when He put your kids into your family. He knows you. He knows them. So simply do your best to make the most of those eighteen years.