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Be Present in Your Children’s Lives… It’s One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Them!

Last night, Kathrynne and I went to Dillon’s together to do some grocery shopping. It’s been awhile since just the two of us have gone grocery shopping together and we had a lot of fun scouting out deals, evaluating options, and picking the best values.

I let her help me figure out which items were the best bang for our buck — and a few times she came up with even better options than I’d thought of in the first place. On the way home, we talked more about money and stewardship and why we’ve made the choices we have with our finances.

All of this took time and energy — something I was feeling short on last night. Truth be told, I was planning to just rush to the store by myself after Jesse got home, get the items on my list, and get home as quickly as possible.

But if I had done that, I would have missed out on such a great teaching opportunity — and the special blessing of quality time and a heart-to-heart talk with Kathrynne. I’m so glad I said “yes” when she asked if she could come with me as I was getting ready to walk out the door.

The cherry on top was Kathrynne telling me when we were almost home, “I think you do a really good job of teaching me to be wise with money.”

I don’t always take the time like I did last night. It’s easier to do things myself instead of letting the kids work and learn alongside me. It takes extra effort to let them help — and when they are toddlers it really isn’t “help” at all.

There are times when I don’t capitalize on teaching opportunities. There are times when I get frustrated at my childrens’ constant questions. There are many times when I set a poor example before my children and have to ask their forgiveness.

But when I do take the time to really listen and engage them in discussions, to invite them to join in with whatever I’m doing, to welcome their questions, and to let them learn alongside me, it’s always worth it. And those are the moments that really matter… much more than whatever seems so “pressing” right then.

So I’m challenging myself (and encourage you moms to join me in this challenge, too): let’s be more present in our childrens’ every day lives. In 25 years from now, we won’t regret it.

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67 Comments

  • Yes, yes, yes! I’ve been focusing a lot on saying “yes” and the results are so amazing! The heart to heart talks, sweet memories….the really living….is the best thing in the world. No regrets.

    • Sarah says:

      I’m butting in but I wanted to post near the top of the comments, in hopes that more people would see this poem. I am the last of 13 children and my Mother has quoted this often. She’s almost 83 now and still considers here children her “babies.” 🙂

      Song For a Fith Child, by Ruth Hamilton. 1958

      Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
      empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
      hang out the washing and butter the bread,
      sew on a button and make up a bed.
      Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
      She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

      Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
      (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
      Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
      (pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
      The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
      and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
      but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
      Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
      (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

      The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
      for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
      So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
      I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

  • Leigh Anne says:

    That comment from your daughter, melt my heart!! We don’t have kiddos yet but my husband and I have already talked about how we want to model being money-wise with our kiddos. Thanks for providing a great example of what this should look like for us!

  • Melissa says:

    Love this! I’m in on the challenge. 🙂

  • So hard to do sometimes. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how motherhood is often so inconvenient. Inconvenient to OUR plans, but what blessings are we trading for our own convenience? So need to keep working on this in my own life.

    • Brenda says:

      Inconvenient… yes. That’s the word. I was just telling my husband, “I’d get so much more done if it weren’t for the kids.” Then did a double take in my thoughts. Where did that come from? Did I truly mean the meaning behind that comment? That I’d rather get things done than have four wonderful kids? Wow.

  • Kemi Quinn says:

    I think it’s so very cute how much your children look like you. I know I know I got the gist of the post and I’ve been going through this with my own daughter in recent months. Taking the time when I would rather rush. And you know what? She’s been very appreciative of it and letting me know. Sharing her heart and talking over things. It makes me stop and pause and slow down.
    But yes your sweet babies look so much like you it’s just so cute. They have your eyes.

  • Anitra says:

    “It’s easier to do things myself instead of letting the kids work and learn alongside me. It takes extra effort to let them help — and when they are toddlers it really isn’t “help” at all.”

    I know you have 3 kids – any recommendations for how to handle an overabundance of “help”? I have an almost-5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Every time I try to let ONE step in and help, the other wants to, too. When my husband’s home, I can take one out for grocery shopping, etc., but what about the rest of the time? I can’t figure out how to really be present for both of them a lot of the time.

    • Amy says:

      I know you weren’t asking me, but I’ve felt the way you described, and would love to share with you what I’ve learned so far. I have an almost 4 year old and a 2 year old. Basically I have them “help” me at the level that they are at. If I’m doing the laundry, I’ll have the 4 year old gather up the dirty clothes and then have the 2 year old throw them in the washer. When I bring groceries home, I’ll let the 2 year old take things out of the bags and then let the 4 year old put them in the refrigerator. They help by doing things they are able to do, and neither get frustrated because they both have “special” jobs. Hope that helps you somehow. Hang in there, you’ll figure out what to do! 🙂

      • Jody says:

        I agree with Amy. I have older children, 19, 16, and 9. But, I still struggle with “being here” for them. One thing I learned is … if you ask your child what they like to do (this may work better for the older ones), they are more apt and happier doing things for you. For example, my 19 year old hates to wash clothes but doesn’t mind helping with the dishes, while my 16 year old hates to wash dishes, so she does the clothes. It ends up a WIN WIN for everyone. I think that the fact that everyone is aware of the fact that they want to spend more time WITH their children is AWESOME!

    • Theresa says:

      Like Amy, I’ll reply even though you weren’t asking me. I have two 2-1/2 year olds…twins. One boy, one girl. The girl likes to help me A LOT. She doesn’t tend to get bored as her brother does. So, when I am working and they ask to help, often times I have to be quick on my feet to think of a way the project can be split three ways—me (the major task at hand), and then two other ways…the same so they won’t fight. It doesn’t always work out so smoothly, but it does work a lot of the time. They always say girls mature faster than boys…and I see it with my twins. She is more capable of doing things, with a longer attention span than he is. (He’ll catch up, but as it stands…that is just the way it is.) As an example of letting them help: when baking…they each get a turn at stirring and they also get a turn at dumping in the ingredients. We’ve been doing this for a while now so they know the routine. If they don’t share, they don’t get to help. (I know this won’t always work, but for now, it does. 🙂 )

      I like Amy’s ideas of each having their own special jobs. I do that as well if I don’t feel I can split the task up equally. Let them each feel special and important in what their task is and encourage them. They’ll love you for it! 🙂

      By the way Crystal…I’m in on the challenge! :~) Thanks for sharing an experience of how well-worth-it the time taken is!

    • Sarah says:

      I am in the same boat. I have a 6, 4, and 2 year old and if one helps mommy, they all have to. We start out great and then two minutes later I just want to throw up my hands and turn on the TV so I can get it done. I was thinking of rotating days and one kid can help with each meal. We have a small kitchen and I just get irritated pretty quickly with the “help.” I need to get better at this. My kids are in the his pile is bigger than mine or she did the eggs last time. Everything has to be “fair.”

  • I completely agree. I fall short on this sometimes too. More often than I’d like. Love that you are brining awareness to being present for our children. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our everyday lives, we can forget about these times. Thank you. Challenge accepted.

  • Yes! I love this post!!! I JUST published an article I’ve been working on this week where I wrote some about the exact same topic! http://davonneparks.com/advice-from-beyond-this-life/

    This is fantastic, thank you!

  • Toni says:

    I know exactly how you feel! I have been thinking about this a lot myself lately and wrote a post about it not long ago, please feel free to have a look… http://alwaysalittlefurthertofly.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/in-4-days/

    I have been loving reading your great ideas too. I have set myself (and my family by default) the challenge of living fearlessly frugal for the next year. Unfortunately we don’t have couponing here in New Zealand but I am still finding lots of new ways to save on our spending. Thanks for the inspiring posts!

  • Lisa says:

    amen sister your exactly right my daughter is now married and a registered nurse oh how I miss the time we had together .we still go shopping but I sure miss her being home and helping me it seems like yesterday I was looking at the mess in her room . I still have a 25 year old at home he lives in basement he has done finished college and he works all the time and also we have our baby he will be 17 in nov. His room does not stay clean I used to get upset but its not worth it because he will clean when it gets bad and one day I won’t have that mess to look at it will be another empty room .So enjoy all messes and time with kiddos cause in a blink it will all be a memory.and you will find yourself trying to remember all the things or messes of what it was like or what you wish you would have done.

  • Jessica says:

    Yes, this!

    My just turned 3 year old son LOVES to help me cook. He likes to mix. And mix and mix. He makes a mess. Big messes. But to see his eyes light up when he’s mixing is just amazing. Plus I like to think that in 20 some years from now, his future spouse will just love his cooking abilities 🙂

    • Kim M says:

      I LOVE this lol my son has been helping me “cook” since he was about 15 months old. He loves it, and while it does make a pretty big mess at times, especially when baking.. I know he’ll look back and remember helping cook with mommy in the kitchen. As an added bonus, I know he also wont be one of those men that only knows how to make ramen noodles in college 🙂

    • Amie says:

      My sons are big “helpers” in the kitchen, too. They love it. lol. They also help with the laundry, dusting, and vacuuming. Even though I know that I will have to go over the floor again, I want them to learn how to do it. They like it, too. “Santa” got my now three year-old a stick vacuum for Christmas so he could vacuum and he loves it. When their toys are on the floor or a cup on the couch, my husband will sigh and do a quick pass through the room, picking up everything, while grumbling, and I am always telling him, “Drop it. The boys can pick that up.” I know it is easier to do things myself, but they’ll never learn if we don’t teach them.

    • Erika says:

      You are sooo right. My kids were once little and we taught them in the kitchen. My son is is now 21 and in college. He lives at home and cooks for us and his girl friend often! As a bonus, his skills are now past mine and he makes some great culinary dishes….yum!

  • Katie says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    I have been thinking the same thing and reading this just helped me want to do it more! So I want to thank you for writing this and doing the challenge also!

  • MK says:

    So needed this reminder; thank you, Crystal!

  • Lana says:

    All of our children are grown but I find this is still true. Last night I sent a simple text to two of our children and instead of a quick text back like I usually get they both called and wanted to talk. I was really tired and just wanted to relax in the recliner but it is rare that they want to just talk on the phone like that and this morning I am so glad that I took the time to listen.

    • Guest says:

      Lana, I’ve never gotten over talking to my mom every day and I’m 36! She might wish I didn’t want to talk to her so much – haha.

  • Patrina says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. As a single mom of three I find myself always trying to hurry and get things done and turning away the “help” of the little people. It is very rewarding to take the extra time and engage our children. Our time with them as children is limited as it is so we should all enjoy it as much as possible:-)

  • Laurie says:

    I can relate to this so much. With 4 children, it is so much faster to just do things, especially as stretched as I am for time, but in such a short time they will be grown and gone- my oldest is 17- it really flies by. I also think right now you have a beautiful window into their hearts- it is the age and the time you have with them and capitalizing on this is crucial for the later years. It will help you keep your influence! In a world where I so often see parents texting and playing on their phones, totally ignoring their children who are right there- this is a timely and needed post. Thank you! We only have them for a little while.

  • Charleen says:

    I loved this post and it was a great reminder of what a blessed gift from God children are. After 15 years, we were blessed with a little girl. Being alot older the second time around, having the energy and overcoming some health issue to match a now 2 year old is hard to come by but I try to take the time out just for me and her. It’s not easy but I know it well worth the sacrifice.

  • Kelly says:

    Ah Crystal…THANK YOU. Lately I’ve been feeling like God missed out on giving me the mommy gene. I love, love my two girls, a 3-year-old and 1-year-old, but between working FT, having a husband who works an opposite shift and isn’t there to back me up a lot, and all my other responsibilities, I am stressed. I am short and often impatient with my girls. I asked for forgiveness last night too (in between running home from work and back again) but this is a great reminder to take the time to enjoy them and teach them. It’s why God blessed me with them in the first place!

    • Carrie says:

      My family has the exact same situation going on and I can totally relate. I too wonder if I am missing the mommy gene. We are always just in survival mode. Hang in there!

  • Tina Womack says:

    Well said Crystal!

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks for the encouraging article. I have a nine month old daughter and often have to slow down and remind myself to appreciate each moment with her (I also work outside of the home). I am a task-oriented person and don’t want to let that get in the way of my relationships – especially with my husband and daughter. Thanks again, and I enjoy your blog.

  • Kelly Hess says:

    With 3 kids of our own, it is hard to focus on each individually. Whenever my husband and I run errands, we make it a point to take one child with us. We call it our “special helper” and they usually jump on the opportunity. The conversations in the car alone are completely worth it. Last week with my 7 year old he brought up on how being a trash collector is a hard job. That turned into a teaching conversation on how you need to do well at school, go to college and get a job you love to do just like your Dad and I. It was wonderful just him and I having an almost “adult” conversation all on the way to Aldi!

  • Lora C says:

    Awesome insight!!! I am so glad that you shared this!!! My children are adults now and I so miss the time that I had with them when they were growing up. I was a single parent struggling to make the ends meet, but somehow I worked hard to invest in my children. I suppose I did that because I always felt like a nuisance to my mother and still feel that way today. I wanted my children to know they were loved–treasured.

    I simply can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by. I no longer have all of the ball games, scout meetings, cookie sales, church youth events, track meets, and more. While all of those things were going on I wanted a break. Now, I would love to be in the midst of those activities–cheering my child on in the race or ball game or helping with crafts or memorizing the Bible verse that I wrote on the bathroom mirror while they were sleeping.

    Crystal, you were right–years from now you won’t regret your investment.

  • SuAnne McBroom says:

    You are so right! Our son is now 26 yrs old and we recently went with him to join a phone family plan where the account was to be in his name. There was no deposit because he has done so well managing his money and paying his bills on time. It was a good feeling to know that he had listened to our teaching and followed through in his adulthood.

    Teaching our children is well worth the time and one-on-one time is the best way.

  • DL says:

    Crystal, such a wonderful challenge! My precious children are now grown and two are married, but my life and mind are replete with memories of hours spent together, talking, reading books, taking walks and sharing about life issues. Their adult friendship is worth any “sacrifice” made to establish fellowship with their hearts when they were young.

    Teachable moments abound in daily life when our children are young. Also, the teen years are such an important time to keep close. Yes, it always seemed to me that in those years my children opened up their hearts to me most, late at night when I was tired, but so be it.

    Do savor and enjoy each season of the lives of your children. This is one of God’s greatest gifts.

  • Tracy says:

    Thank you for this post. It has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. This is something I definitely struggle with. It helps to hear that you struggle as well. I said yes last night too. My 5 year old daughter and I made brownies and hardboiled eggs after my twin 1 year old boys went to sleep. She cracked the eggs all by herself and was so proud of herself. She told me she always loves when we cook together. My boys will be two at the end of the summer. I am trying to soak up all the cuddles I can before they are too busy exploring to come see me.

  • joy says:

    Touching post. You are absolutely right. Thanks for the reminder.

  • MIchelle Walsh says:

    A great reminder for moms. Thanks. I needed to hear this today.

  • Emily says:

    I agree. However, I think that moms feel guilt of not being enough. It’s important (and not selfish) for us to take care of ourselves, too. We need the boost of exercising solo or reading a book without feeling guilty. I attend an exercise class 3 times a week for one hour, and it took me forever to not feel guilty for going. But it reenergizes me mentally and physically for better quality time spent with my daughter. And a parent should want their child to grow into a self-sufficient well-adjusted adult. Sometime alone time benefits them, too. That said, I spend a LOT of time with my daughter, but I try to not feel like I’m doing something bad by exercising alone because I’m not.

    • Crystal says:

      I really appreciate you bringing this up, because the last thing I wanted to do was guilt moms with this post. I realized late last night that some moms could interpret it to mean you always have to do everything with your children.

      So let me clarify: I think it’s very important to spend a lot of quality time with your children, but this doesn’t meant that you should never leave them with dad or grandma or a sitter. In fact, I think all moms need to have margin and breathing room in their life.

      It’s very important that we are filling up our tanks on a regular basis, too, otherwise we’ll completely exhaust and burn out. For me, that means going out one night each week with a friend (while the dads watch our kiddos), afternoon quiet time, taking time to exercise almost daily, reading, at-home movie dates with my husband, and the occasional shopping trip or coffee shop outing by myself.

      What one mom needs to stay re-energized will be different than what another mom needs, but if you are feeling drained and exhausted, I highly encourage you to make sure you’re doing things on a regular basis that energize you. By doing so, you’ll feel better — and be a better mom, too!

      {Thanks again for bringing this up, Emily!}

  • Emily says:

    Should also mention that I try to make sure I incorporate our 15-month old in as much as possible. She will ‘help’ me fold clothes, and she stirs her wooden spoon in a bowl while I cook, etc. So I fully believe we should be present in our kids lives and teach them. However, I hate it for moms who feel guilty spending any time away from their kids because I was there once, too. 🙂

  • Sherrie Broadus says:

    Very well said …AMEN sister! I pray about this as well.

  • K says:

    This is great.

    Thanks.

  • Heather says:

    What an awesome post!!!! Nice reminder even for us veteran moms out there. I think it is important to carry on being present in your child’s life as your child becomes a teen even they don’t thank you or act like they care. Because they really do care, some just may not want you to know it. Don’t give up on being involved just because teens haven’t figured out what to do with a surplus of hormones.

  • Being Omma says:

    Your daughter is a sweetheart, those words would have melted my heart right into the floor! Bless you and her.

    Thank you for this reminder. A wise friend once said that to give anything less than 100% to the task at hand was not trusting God to sort everything else that had potential to steal the moment.

  • Victoria says:

    Yes. Love this. I am learning this lesson with my workouts. Use to be that was my time, then my son wanted to start running, then my other son wanted to get out biking more and pretty soon I was working out more with my kids and less by myself, but I love the talking time it gives us. They really open up during our workouts together.

  • Jen says:

    I completely agree.

    I have a five-year-old daughter who LOVES helping, particularly with her two-month-old brother. She drives me crazy daily. Today was one of those days. I had planned to take her to the Incredible Pizza Company to use a Groupon that was about to expire. I seriously considered just going home. Instead, we went and I focused my attention on her (even though brother was with us). When we left, she said it was the best time ever!

  • Mary Ellen says:

    So true. I think HURRY and WORRY are two of the worst sins we can do to ourselves.

    Be present. Forgive. Stop and smell the roses because in 10 years you’ll remember the roses, not the trip to pick up some milk. Be thankful for 3 things every day. Motivational quotes are great and all, but the pick me up is usually short-lived unfortunately. But, committing to be present, grateful and helpful every day will be the biggest and most lasting boost of well-being of all.

  • Yes! This is such a good reminder. Time seems to be flying by and sometimes when my boys get up in the morning they look like they’ve grown overnight. It’s so important to take the time and be present everyday, even just for a little bit. I’m trying to say “yes” more even though sometimes I feel like screaming “no” and running away. hahaha 😉

  • Shana Norris says:

    Thank you for being so honest here, Crystal. I am very guilty of preferring to do things like grocery shopping without the kids because, yes, it’s quicker and easier. So thanks for the very eye-opening reminder.

  • Naomi says:

    thank you for helping to remind all of us! It’s tough! I myself had a rough morning, with my 5 yo and 2.5 yo, of constant questions and find myself wanting to play the quiet game in the car instead of answering each and every one of their questions thoughtfully and honestly. It’s nice to know other mom’s aren’t perfect and have to take a step back too and remember they are just kids and they really do want to know! 🙂
    THANKS

  • Judy says:

    This is a lesson I am trying to do myself with three kids (boys) I am always so busy but we have dinner as a family most nights am working on making more time to just chill out and go do more fun stuff with each one of my kids they grow up so quickly.

    thanks for all the great information from your website and other members

  • Karen says:

    Crystal – I’ve been reading your blog for a year and this was the most moving post I’ve read! Thanks for sharing. I, too, am a working mom and am trying to do the best I can at home and at work. This is a great reminder to continue to involve my kids in things – even when I know darn well it would be faster an easier to do it alone!

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for the challenge! I had the chance to put it into practice just today. My husband has been out of town all week with our youth group at camp. We have four kids ages 6 and under. I’m pooped! But tonight the Lord opened a door for me when 2 little girls rang the doorbell. These girls came to play at our house simply because my husband had been their tball coach. I was able to put aside my own personal desires and focus on all 6 kids. Thank you and now I’m off to bed!

  • Amie says:

    It is such a great feeling to be complimented by our children. It warms my heart when my five year-old compliments me and when I see that he has internalized some of the things we have discussed. I think explaining things is so important. I am a teacher and when we’d give our behavior disordered students (average IQs) acheivement tests, they’d score k-1 in their general fund of knowledge questions, even though they were 5th graders. They just didn’t know the “basics” that aren’t taught in school – the stuff that most of us figure out on our own by asking questions. It was sad to me. I’d even encountered several adults who thought it was a negative thing when children talk with adults or listen to adults engaged in conversation – basic conversations, not inappropriate or private topics. Sad.

  • Felicia says:

    Our children are 24 and 25. From the ‘other side’, I can say with confidence 25 years from now you won’t regret any of the decisions you are making to spend time with your children. After God and my husband, our children are the most important people in my life and I still stop what I’m doing whenever they want to talk or need something. I am still loving every minute of it! Keep making those memories and showing your children how much you love them! It’s worth every second.

    • Lena says:

      I think we should make the most of our children while they still need us – because some day, they won’t anymore!
      Imagine how you’ll feel the day You ask your kid to come with you to the grocery store and he says no! Sometimes we forget that being present in our children’s lives is so much more important than our daily errands and chores.

    • Lena says:

      So very true!

  • Brenda says:

    This has been on my mind so much this month. July feels so busy with house renovations and “computer work” and other responsibilities. The kids have begun to act like they’re being ignored… you know, moody and aggressive. I need to remember that they ARE the most important on my to do list. That it’s ok to stop what I’m doing to look them in the eye as they tell me their long, exciting stories. It’s ok to hold my whining 3 year old. It’s ok to say “yes” more and “no” less.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Sarah N says:

    My fouth baby is will be six weeks old and I am doing my best to be in all my children’s lives and keep the house for the hubby. (He knows he has to let the standards slip by now but it is hard to come home to a messy house for him). I recite the end of that poem Sarah posted to myself sometimes when it gets to much.

    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

    Of course I do rock my baby and reading to the six and four year old or talking to the ten year old. And remind myself that I can get it done but if they want to help it is better to let them.

  • Amen! Very wise words, Crystal.

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