Every moment is another chance to make a memory, and whether or not we realize it, we’re creating good or bad memories every day, while indifferent moments just fade away. We all have regrets. In reality, a number of woulda, coulda, shouldas, haunt us all, but there doesn’t have to be so many of those. It’s never too late to make an unforgettable impact. Below I’ve shared five things your kids will always remember about you.
How you love them. This is the most important one. Kids may not remember every hug, but they remember hugs. They may not remember every “I love you” but they’ll recall that they were loved and that they heard you say it. Kids need to hear that you love them, they need to experience your affection in lots of different ways. They also need to experience your grace.
When my son was small maybe 6 or 7 years old, he made a poor choice and got himself into some trouble. He had been warned and we had set clear-cut consequences for this particular infraction. Out of frustration I could have shamed him or harshly sentenced him with the punitive consequences of his deliberate poor choice, but at that time I’d been reading a lot about forgiveness and grace. I decided that too often I was imposing punitive consequences rather than freely offering grace. Suddenly I was reminded that I had benefited more than once from God’s grace, and I wondered how often I’d extended that grace in a tangible, memorable, meaningful way that might be remembered.
A Photo of the wall we painted as a family when our son was much younger.
I sat down on my son’s bed, as he curled up facing the wall silent and sniffling. I looked around at the stars and planets on the wall. We had painted that room together as a family, and I had personally painted every planet. The largest wall read, “In the beginning God…” It was a Genesis themed room we’d imagined on our own. We’d allowed our son some freedom to assist and for good measure he’d painted a USA Rocket-ship complete with two hovering astronauts. I looked around and reminded myself why we’d artfully created that theme, and how we had allowed him to add his own personal touch.
I rested my head on the pillow beside him, and explained to him the concept of grace and forgiveness. We also discussed poor decisions (particularly the most current one), and talked about consequences. Then I did something I couldn’t recall ever having done. I explained I was granting him grace, and a clean slate, and that the issue would be forevermore 100% closed simply because I loved him. He looked at me bewildered. He didn’t fully understand at that moment but I knew someday he would.
We’ve since painted that room many times. Right now it serves as a family game-room rather than as a bedroom, but we have continually painted around the rocket-ship he painted with his own two hands—time and again. For me, the rocket-remains a steadfast reminder of a moment of love and grace. Show your kids you love them often. Say it with words. Say it with action. Say it in ways you won’t even have to verbalize, and do it in ways they’ll never forget.
Though he is much older, even today our son’s rocket ship remains on the wall. A reminder of grace, love, and wonder.
Below I’ve listed four more things your kids will remember about you.
How you love yourself. How you take care of yourself matters. Our kids pick up on our self-esteem, our confidence, and our attitudes toward our spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. They’ll model their own self-acceptance, and confidence based on the example set before them. If you hate going to the doctor, they’ll hate going to the doctor.
How you love others. Aside from a healthy love for ourselves, kids are always watching and listening to how we handle other relationships. How you treat strangers and the world, whether on the street, in the drive-thru, or at the ball field or the gym will be remembered. Our conversations about people in public and in private are also heard. Our spirit of giving and serving is under constant observation. When children see us love or serve others, they’ll model that love and service…eventually. On the other hand, if we avoid the world, or we send the message the world is out to get us, they’ll live believing it’s out to get them too.
How you react under pressure. Stressful situations of all sorts place our character under scrutiny. From waiting in long lines, to frantically chasing a deadline, or from preparing for job interviews getting fired or experiencing, pain or trauma, we all live through unwanted or unfortunate circumstances. Grownups are not the only ones experiencing those events. Our kids are present too. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in trials and tribulation, to forget they’re living it along with us. How they act under pressure will often be a direct result of how you react under pressure.
Your sense of wonder. I’ve always been a creative person, so I’m blown away when I meet people who grew up never learning how to play. Some have even told me that their parents or friends thought playing was silly or a waste of time, so they avoided it. As a result, those same people often express that as a result, they feel silly, goofy, or embarrassed when people are having fun, and that in fact they have no idea how to have fun.
That grieves my heart. As a person of faith, I believe we’re all born with a sense of wonder. Unfortunately, in so many people it’s never cultivated, or encouraged, and sometimes even discouraged. I promise you…how you see the world and how you play matters. Your sense of humor matters. The jokes you tell as well as the content matter. The best way to give your kids freedom to have fun and a sense of wonder, is to share fun and imaginative things.
When my son was three, he loved Nick Jr’s Blues Clues. We all enjoyed watching Steve and his dog Blue search for clues. Occasionally I’d put on my striped rugby shirt like Steve’s, grab the scissors, cut-out dozens of small blue paw prints to serve as “clues” and place them throughout our house. We’d play Blues Clues for hours. As he got older, we’d play Star Wars. Being in the presence of children is a ticket to exercise our imaginations. They never forget those moments when we’re willing to get lost in moments of wonder.
Photo courtesy nickjr.com/bluesclues
What sort of memories are you making?
Psst. Now’s the moment when you give your mom, dad or kid a hug or a quick call to say “I love you.”
Lead. Learn. Live.
All my best, all the time,
Who is Chester? A leader in education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access, policy, and blogging culture, Chester has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, Forbes Leadership, and others. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Edutopia. You can learn more about Chester and his Amazon #1 Best Seller at www.purplepeopleleaderbook.com or www.chestergoad.com. He and his wife live in Tennessee with their teenage son.