Originally published in 2011 & 2012. What follows is an updated version-
“Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not in wisdom that you ask about this.” Ecclesiastes 7:10
When I came across the original version of this article recently, I felt it was a timely reminder for us all… Especially during this worldwide virus Pandemic. Most business are closed and many are out of work through no fault of their own. We have all been asked to harbor safely in our homes for the sake of all. Our schools our closed for the remainder of the year and our children are being home schooled by their parents. All graduation ceremonies have been cancelled or will be virtual experiences. Families are huddled together 24/7 with all the stresses of the pandemic (fear of contracting the virus, personal financial decline, the hoarding and shortages of food and necessary home supplies, and the uncertainty of the future). Add to it the day to day stresses of family relationships. We are probably saying and doing things, both good and bad, that we never thought we would.
That is the ‘background’ of today’s article. As it was in the original article, the focus here is going to be our children…
I have always disliked hearing grown ups say to young teenagers, when talking to them about high school or college, “Enjoy these times. They are the best times of your life!” It actually makes me cringe.
Imagine at 18 or 20 years of age hearing that the best days of your life are already lived. What does that say about the next 60 to 70 years?! They must think, if it’s true, and it must be because that’s what all the grownups are saying, what is there to look forward to in my life? What a bummer. Thinking about this in terms of our current day situation, with graduation ceremonies cancelled, postponed, or virtual, are our kids being made to feel they are being deprived of one of the biggest days of their life? That if they don’t walk across a stage and receive a diploma they have actually incurred a sad loss they can never regain? A fun memory to have, yes. Important to success in life, no. Their accomplishments are the big deal here, and they need to know that. It is their own personal accomplishments that are going to take them to the next chapter, the next big time in their life! We need to focus on the good/positive realities of their current life situation just now, instead of creating drama or making them feel overly sad about possibly missing out on a public celebration.
Another thing that has always made me cringe is when I hear young mothers carelessly say in front of their young children, “I can’t wait until they start back to school!” I can’t help but think how it must make the child feel? At the very least, they must think, Mom is tired of me; that she likes it better when I am at school. Now I’m not trying to guilt trip all you Moms who have ever said that, as we often say things in a joking way and that’s fine, occasionally. Teasing and bantering with our kids is part of a learning process for sure. Hopefully they are not hearing something like that on a regular basis. Certainly not a message a child should internalize.
And, please know that I am not saying as parents we don’t sometimes/often welcome relief from the stresses of parenting; that we don’t need and treasure our ‘alone’ time. We just shouldn’t make or allow our kids to feel they are the cause of our stress or our unhappiness. If our children feel they are a burden to us, or that we would rather be somewhere else than with them, then they will see themselves as unlovable, or at the very least, a burden. They will see themselves as something we need a break from. Whenever another Mom said to me she couldn’t wait for summer or holidays to end and the kids to be back in school, I would reply loud enough for my kids to hear, “Not me! I love having my kids home with me!” Which kid would you rather be?
And yet, we also need them to not be fearful of venturing out of the nest to places such as school, sports, etc. They need to feel secure in the knowledge that they are loved and will be missed while at school, but also have the strong feeling that they are encouraged and supported. As parents we must support them in growing up to be confident, capable, caring adults.
When my three were in high school and college, I told each of them to enjoy this special time in their lives, but to also look forward with anticipation to the future and all that God held in trust for them. I needed them to know that no matter how wonderful or bad a particular time might be, the best was always yet to come. I told them life was a gift that God gave us; a gift to be appreciated, enjoyed, and lived to the fullest; a gift to be cherished and protected.
Our children learn from our example how to react to the events in their own lives. If we spend all of our time looking backwards, living in ‘what ifs’, and blaming our present trials on the past, then they will learn to do the same. They will always look backwards with remorse, or with a longing for the ‘good old days’. Either way they will not be focused on the blessings of the present or the hope of the future. Living in the past is not a path to success in the future.
Our children need to see us making the present time the best time in our life, or at least making the best of our current situation with the hope of a brighter future. Sure, we can share good times from the past with them, but at the same time, making them think we love all the different times of our lives. I have loved my kids in every stage of their lives. I wouldn’t want to go back though, because I love who they are right now too!
You may think my view of life to be too simple and too optimistic, but I am also a realist. Like everyone, I have real responsibilities and problems. At times, some are more serious than others. I have learned I have a choice in how I react to them. While it is not always simple or easy to find ways to deal with difficult times and difficult problems, I remain happy in my core beliefs. I believe in my God, my Father, my Creator. I believe He’s got my back! Because I believe this, I am able to navigate through all the different times of my life, and look forward with hope and joy to the next. I live in His seasons for my life.
It may be difficult for some to understand that, but the best way I know to explain it is to say that I choose happiness even in sadness. Does that mean I am not sad? Of course not, but when I am, I turn my focus (even if through tears of sadness) to all the blessings in my life, no matter what else is going on. I focus on God.
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)