As I walk through retail or grocery stores, I am usually very aware of how parents talk to their kids. I notice the ones who lovingly pay attention to their children and speak to them respectfully. I notice the ones who are harried and (sometimes quite rudely) rush their kids along. I notice the ones who are so rude and harsh to their kids – it makes me cringe to listen to those parents. I notice the ones who are just awful to their kids – those are the ones that break my heart. Sometimes it sounds like they actually hate their kids!
I remember, when our oldest son was born, we were given a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. entitled “Children Learn What They Live With.”
If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Although children make their own choices, which are sometimes outside of what the parent would wish (especially as they get older), I am a firm believer that a positively-involved parent can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Children hear our words; they see our actions and learn to emulate them. We make a difference in their lives!
More than once, I have been tempted to stop a harsh, harried, or rude parent and say, “What are you teaching your child by your words and actions? Do you realize what are you imprinting on their lives? Don’t you know what a precious gift you have? Do you realize how quickly these years go by? Would you be acting the same toward your child if you knew they could die at any time? Would you regret your words or behavior if you no longer had your child to hold close? Cherish the moments with your child! The shopping will wait; the housework will wait! Slow down and enjoy being with your precious child! This moment won’t come again.”
We’ve all been there – in a hurry, upset, impatient, mad about something. There is no perfect parent. Children aren’t perfect, either, and that can make parenting a challenge. As the saying goes: parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s not an easy job, that’s for sure.
After children are grown and away from home, we empty-nest parents have a full realization of how quickly those growing-up years have passed, never to return, and then we wish we had them back to take our time and enjoy more. When a child has died (no matter what the age), the opportunity to spend time and cherish any moment with that child is gone. Our child is gone! All we have is memories, and perhaps regret for missed opportunities to spend time together with our child.
If I had the chance, there are so many things I would do differently. As a homeschooling parent, I probably spent more time with my kids than most. I loved it, and counted it an honor to be involved in their lives as they grew up. But, I am far from perfect, and there are times when the “should have’s” tap me on the shoulder to remind me of things I could have done better or differently. I would love to have the opportunity to spend time with Jason, to play another game of chess or Yahtzee. I would love the chance make chocolate chip cookies together, to teach Jason how to make my “famous” cinnamon rolls, or type up his homework papers as he dictated them to me (Jason’s “thinking juices” flowed best as he walked around the room and thought out loud). I would gladly hand over the keys to our new car and encourage Jason to drive it to take Alina home that night – maybe he would be alive today if he had been driving a different car. I would love to… The list goes on and on. Most of all, I would just love to have my precious boy here.
We always think there will be more time, another opportunity. Sometimes there just isn’t.
© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney