How to Savor the Moments as Your Child Grows
Eighteen years can seem like a long time, but your kid’s childhood often feels like it will vanish in the blink of an eye. Check out these five tips on how to prolong and savor each phase of childhood while it lasts.
Engage your child
When her children were young, Margaret Philbrick found reading aloud to them to be a powerful way to slow down time. Snuggling on her bed created a cozy nighttime bubble. “Reading together chills them out, and their minds stop running,” she explains.
For her oldest son the habit lasted through high school, but her middle child only agreed to read with her through eighth grade. Then the two switched to weekly dates at a coffee shop.
Philbrick advises, “Engage with your children, no matter what age they are. Do something they love with them, instead of watching them.”
For your child a regular touch point might be tossing a ball in the back yard or working together on a craft. Find a common interest you can enjoy together across the years.
“Any time there is going to be a ‘last’ I make sure we’re going to be a part of it,” says Barbara Vetter, a mother of three. “Some ‘lasts’ just happen and you don’t know it’s going to be the last time for something. That makes every one that much more important.”
Vetter started to acknowledge “lasts” after she read Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury. The mother in the book talks to her young son about how it’s not so much his “firsts” that she wants to take note of — first tooth, first word, first day of school — but the “lasts” she hopes to remember — last baby bottle, last day of kindergarten, last time in a high school jersey.
The end of an era creates an opportunity to talk with your child about what you remember. In fact, Vetter believes that firsts are about the child, while lasts are more for parents. She explains, “We naturally track the firsts. Your child is reaching a milestone, so you want to record it. But maybe with the ‘last’ you also are reaching a milestone. It’s that your child is going on to the next stage.”
Mark rites of passage
Create traditions around special dates, milestones and ages so you pause and notice more. When you do a specific activity on that occasion, it provides an anchor in time that slows you for a moment.
Ann Kroeker, author of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families, says that on birthdays her family encourages the person being celebrated to offer observations about herself. “We try to ask the same number of questions as the person’s age. It has become a fun reflection on the past year and how that family member’s interests have changed or stayed the same,” she says.
Create a time capsule
Map out the high points and moments of growth in your child’s life on a timeline. Or stash mementos from those occasions in a box for safe keeping. Go back occasionally to update and reflect. Invite your child to contribute his memories and keepsakes, too.
Live in the moment
Because we want to treasure our children’s accomplishments, we can become caught up in recording special events. We’ve all seen the “mamarazzi” holding video and digital cameras during school performances. But a camera creates a buffer between us and the action.
Make a goal to capture a few shots or select minutes of footage. Then put the camera down and enjoy. The same goes for preserving what you’ve captured. As Kroeker says, “To spend all of one’s time scrapbooking, writing or photographing — in other words, to focus too much on chronicling life — could possibly steal from our actual life.”
Create a scrapbook page or two for each memory. Crop a few photos. Write a short entry. Then move on. No one will know how much more you could have done, and you’ll have enough to trigger memories of what you experienced.
Lara Krupicka is a parenting journalist and mom of three.