[I’m excited to introduce my guest contributor today. Eryn Lynum is a friend and author of 936 Pennies, Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. Her book available today is engaging, honest and full of encouragement for every mom in the trenches. -Sylvia]
We were three weeks into a month-long road trip with our three young boys. And although we are no strangers to roadtripping with young children, I was feeling rather tired, overwhelmed, and very pregnant with our baby due in a couple of short months.
I looked down at my six-year-old, guilt riddling my thoughts, and confessed to him: “Zeke, I’m sorry I haven’t been doing too many things with you lately. I’ve been really tired. I’m sorry we haven’t spent much time together.” In my simple, un-eloquent apology, I felt guilt loosen its grip, even if only a little bit. But then my boy responded, and you know what he said? He looked up into my eyes and answered, “Well Mom, one thing you have been doing a lot is….hugging!” And with that he threw his arms around me.
Oh the grace of a child.
When we consider the 936 weeks we are given to raise our children from birth until they turn 18, the temptation is to pack those weeks full of lofty adventures. Yet in doing so, I think we set ourselves up for failure and guilt as parents. Rather, what if the beauty in the story of 936 weeks is to be found in the “small” moments? What if the power of these weeks is wrapped up not in our expectations, but our presence?
On that day in the kitchen with my son, it was this tiny blip of time in our day, this seemingly insignificant exchange that taught me something very significant about parenthood, and that is this: our childrens’ expectations and ideas of our parenting are often much simpler than those lofty, elaborate, unreachable expectations we place upon ourselves.
More often than not, a hug is all they need. Or a simple, “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you because ________”, or “I love spending time with you.”
Our own expectations tend to be shaped by the way society, social media, or parenting “experts” express the “ideal” parent. But our children? They just want us. Plain, simple, imperfect us. They want us next to them, us looking into their eyes, us taking a moment to stop and smile toward them.
I didn’t know at the time that my husband was taking this photo. He sent it to my phone later that evening. The truth about this snapshot of time is that I was rather frustrated at that moment. The day had already been long, and now we were in a rush to grab groceries before I left for a weekend trip. I was excited, of course, for some retreat, but I had not even packed yet, and my friend would be picking me up in an hour. And here we were, trying to rush through the grocery store, which is hardly possible with three hungry children.
But then my husband sent me this perspective of that moment that I couldn’t see from within it. Only from his eyes looking in could I grasp the significance of my hand on my boy’s shoulder. Knowing how I felt in that moment, a small notion of affection was all that was needed.
As I was writing my book, 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting, which releases today (link: https://www.amazon.com/936-Pennies-Discovering-Intentional-Parenting/dp/0764219782), I came time and time again to this internal struggle. Not only as a writer trying to shed truth on the significance of the time we spend with our children—but also just as a mom. I was faced with this battle of wanting to make elaborate efforts toward investing in my kids, and having to constantly remind myself that it is often the small things that are actually the huge things.
What if we would take a step back from our own expectations today, and ask our children the following questions? I think it would offer us a very revealing glimpse into how they desire us to spend time with them.
- What is your favorite way to spend time with me?
- Would you rather I take you out for breakfast sometime this week, or help you with that project you have been working on?
- What words do I say to you that really make you happy?
- What words do I use that you do not like?
- Does it make you happier when someone says something encouraging to you, or makes you a gift?
- Do you enjoy reading a book or going for a walk more?
By asking our children specific questions like these, I believe we can come to a clearer understanding of how they enjoy spending time. And when we invest ourselves into those efforts, we create a legacy of time well spent, and love well spread. We grasp hold of every single one of these 936 weeks, and we build them one upon another into a beautiful story of us and our children together. It all begins today—with the “smallest” of things.
Eryn Lynum is author of the book 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and three boys, where they spend their time hiking, camping, and exploring the Rocky Mountains. She loves to travel and share at conferences, churches, and writers’ groups. But every opportunity she gets, she is out exploring God’s creation with her family, and sharing the journey at www.936Pennies.com