I heard a young teenager say something so telling once about a traveling softball team she was on. She said, I love my softball team, but I miss my family.
I thought, wow, she gets it. Even though at her age she probably doesn’t understand why she feels this way, she understands that there’s something deep inside her to connect with her family and to have quality time together with them.
As an adult I can now reflect back on those things that were most precious and life changing to me as a child growing up.
They were not vacations, softball games or expensive clothes. They were my fathers wisdom, my grandmothers walk of true obedience with God and time spent with my mom in the kitchen seeing which one of us kids got to be the one to lick the spatula after baking endless amounts of Christmas cookies we’d make with mom that we would always share with others.
It was the time my dad spent with me. Quite frankly it didn’t matter so much what we were doing, playing catch, learning how to kick field goals or watching reruns of MASH (or sometimes “In Living Color,” but mom isn’t supposed to know that….shhhhh!). For me, my dads investment in my life manifested itself in ways that were most transformational not by the things he got us or the exciting places he and mom might have taken us, but in watching closely the way he treated others. It was his humility, kindness and integrity that I can see now as an adult that had greater return than any gift he could me. It was my mothers’ constant willingness to serve other people. My grandmothers steady faith and her constant trust in Jesus.
I would like to suggest we spend far too much time swiping the credit card, believing the more “opportunities” we create for our children- the better parents we have become. The greatest investment and return we will ever give to our children will not be in the things that we get for them, but in what we teach them by the way that we live our lives and how present we are for them. It will be the time that we invest in them, The dollar sign attached to the time we spend with our children is really irrelevant, we could be spending $5 dollars and be placing a greater stamp on their lives if we are fully present, than if we spend $5,000 dollars, but are emotionally or physically unavailable for our children.
You see, we live for big, exciting moments so we spend exorbitant amounts of our time,energy and efforts to find fulfillment in the next big thing. We put money down on an extravagant vacation, buy tickets to this thing or that. Many times at the expense of our families financial health. Why? Could it be we’re trying to impress others or believe some sort of falsity that our children will value us more if we give them more stuff. We might also believe that we aren’t as good of parents if our children don’t have the latest pieces of technology, expensive name brand clothing, or aren’t on traveling sports teams.
Truth be told, I think much of this is a heart issue we have yet to address in our own lives. We spend our time posting on Facebook about all the great places we take our children and opportunities we believe we’re creating for them that in reality is only keeping the family disconnected from one another. All the while our children are watching, they’re learning from us where our value is truly found.
Another young teenager once said to me, “I just want to be with my family and not always be so busy. I miss my parents when they’re at work and I’m lonely at home by myself. I wish they were there more often. I just like spending time together with my family.”
Let’s be fully present for our children. Even as a woman without children I need to be reminded of this truth, because I can often get caught up on doing things rather than making myself available for people.
Lord, give us grace. Help us, we need you to move in our hearts so we don’t run after a lifestyle that only keeps us disconnected from those closest to us. Give us wisdom as we raise children to know you and help us to be fully present for them, in Jesus name. Amen.