My youngest child started in reception last week. I have found it both exciting and rather sad. It is yet another milestone in the journey of his life, a life which seems to trickle through the hourglass at an unfathomable rate sometimes. I can’t help but look at my 4 year old on the brink of so much and yet I want to hold on to this miniscule human and stop this march of time for just a while longer. I want to relish the tiny moments, the missed words, the big ideas and the innocent adventure of life. I love the feeling of tight arms around my neck or the ‘I love you’s’, the way he snuggles up in bed next to me when he has had a bad dream, the way he bounces out of school full of stories and excitement about life. I want to press pause and hold on to him, to protect him from life, from hurt, from sadness and to protect his innocence.
Then I look at my elder child. I felt equally bereft when she started school three years ago, but I still had a tiny bundle of babyness in my arms and was reassured that I didn’t have to worry about losing him for a long time. And now I burst with pride looking at my daughter – she loves school so much and I adore our endless chats and sharing time with her. It reminds me that the inevitable passage of time has an evolving joy about it. One stage is simply the stepping-stone to the next one so that without even realising it a subtle stage change has occurred.
So as a parent how can we help to make the little milestones count, to mark the memories and yet not hold our children back? Maybe just being present more often. Take time to watch, to listen and to be part of their lives. When you ask ‘how was your day at school?’ really listen, ask questions and be interested. To them it is their whole world; bills, work and other commitments mean nothing to them and nor should they. Just be present. Put your phone down; turn off your computer and listen.
Try having golden time every day, even just 10 minutes when you focus exclusively on them whether it’s preparing a meal, reading a story or gazing at the stars; allow them to sometimes choose what this golden time is and go with their flow – be excited by what excites them, allow yourself to be led by them and let yourself live on the outskirts of your child’s life.
Make a promise to turn off your phone at weekends to have family golden time. Allow each person to have a weekend when they choose what to do. Maybe there is an epic board game battle, or hot chocolate on the trampoline, perhaps it’s making pizza all together. Allow everyone to have a turn – including parents! It only needs to be a short time but fun and together.
So try not to hold on to one time but to relish all the time, not to look back but embrace the future. Being present is the greatest gift we can give our children; after all, that’s what memories are made of and no one can take away our memories.