Luke and Trisha are a young couple in our community who have three little girls whose birthdates are spaced similar to our daughters. The significant difference is the decades when they were born. Their baby is in diapers and ours is in Driver’s Ed.
When Mike and I see them we have flashbacks to that time in our family’s life. When we said this to them, Luke jokingly told us to get out of the past, move on and face the reality that we’re old. Trisha chose the gentler approach, asking if I had any advice about raising three girls.
With only Melanie living under our roof these days, I’ve had time to ponder her question. It was much easier for me to think of everything that I’ve done wrong than to recall what I might have got right. If anything was done well, it was only by God’s grace.
So Trisha, if I could do it all again, and nurture those cute little peanuts that you have the privilege of raising today, here’s what I’d do:
• When the girls were very little, we taught them to pray what our parents taught us ... Now I lay me down to sleep ... As they aged they prayed on their own. In retrospect, instead of saying, “Did you say your prayers?” I wish I’d spent more years on my knees praying alongside of them.
• When the girls were small and just learning what relationships and being sisters were all about, I wish I would have told them, “This is your best friend!” Sometimes we buy into the “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your relatives” and I believe that a mindset (brainwashing if necessary) that being sisters isn’t something you’re “stuck” with, but a best friend “choice” would have minimized the sisterly squabbles.
• We read lots of children’s books together, but I wish I wouldn’t have stopped reading to them when they could read for themselves. If I could go back we’d read the Chronicles of Narnia, all of the Anne of Green Gables books, The Little House books, and more.
• If I could do it again, I would’ve stuck to Mike’s original plan and kept the girls in the same bedroom. When I was little I hated sharing a bedroom with my sister. To gift my children something I wanted as a kid, I insisted they each have their own room. Other parents have made the same unwise choice and then wonder why kids don’t know how to live in small spaces or get along with roommates when they enter college. Mike was right and I think the shared room option would have allowed the girls to spend more time together and not escape conflict by locking themselves away in separate bedrooms.
• If I were given a mother’s redo, I would’ve also bypassed the purchase of a dishwasher. Cleanup goes too fast when dishes can be quickly hidden away in the machine. How much better it is to work together, washing and drying dishes, and sharing and laughing about the day’s events.
• If I could do it again, I’d spend the bulk of my time on the things that last. A clean kitchen doesn’t last, but memories of baking cookies together — even when the flour spills all over the floor — do. Neatly folded laundry is short lived, too, but the things learned about relationships during our tea parties at the “bunny” table made lasting impressions on the heart.
Naomi Cramer Overton wrote, “What has lasted for my kids is the same as in my own life: loving relationships that enfold our lives. What lasts are little ways of loving — taking time to play or eating peanut butter sandwiches in a tree. These efforts change the lives of the little ones in our care.”
• If I could do it all over again, I’d never miss one opportunity — not ever — to remind those girls how much I love them, all the reasons I like them, and how proud I am of who they are and who they are becoming.
As Luke so pointedly reminded Mike and I — we’re getting old. If I could do it all over again sounds good in theory, but can’t realistically be done. Parental “do-overs” don’t work so well on adult children. Maybe that’s why people get so excited about grandchildren — a second chance to get it right.
Within Marilyn Blackaby’s book, “Experiencing God Around the Kitchen Table,” she gives the encouraging word that it’s never too late, even if our children are adults. She writes, “All is not lost! There are many special ways to continue impacting our children and to have a relationship that brings joy. Being an example for our children lasts a lifetime. They will continue to watch how we handle sorrows, joys, crises and challenges.”
That’s the good news, Trisha. Love on those kids, give them your best, and if ever there’s a day when you long for your own mother’s re-do, all is not lost. The joy of being a parent lasts a lifetime. It’s a fact, Luke, even for old duffers like Mike and me.
Lenae Bulthuis is a wife, mom and friend who muses from her back porch on a Minnesota grain and livestock farm. Connect with her on her blog at http://lsbmusings.wordpress.com.