We all love our kids, right? Truth be told, there is probably nothing in the world we wouldn’t do for them. Sometimes, though, there are so many things we HAVE to do for them such as carpool, dentist appointments, swim lessons, soccer practice, and waiting in that school car line AGAIN…that can make parenting start to feel more like WORK and less like JOY. That’s when a healthy dose of perspective can make all the difference.
I’ll share a little story with you. Years ago, a minister in my church was gearing up for her son’s wedding the following weekend. As she reflected back on the 20 past years with her little boy who was now a grown man about to be married, she encouraged all of us to make the shift from “I HAVE to” to “I GET to” with all things related to our kids. Wow. One word. Three letters. Huge difference.
Why? Because they are truly only our ‘babies’ for a little while. The blink of an eye. And if we get so caught up in feeling the drudgery of another task rather than the opportunity it presents – we totally miss out on the gifts that are hidden in each one. For example, instead of I HAVE to shuttle my kids to school and sports practice – I GET to spend uninterrupted time with them without the competition of the TV, internet, friends or any other distraction. I GET to make that OUR time to catch up, belt out tunes, be silly, talk, relate – and enjoy their presence - just us.
Think -- instead of I HAVE to volunteer at the school, I GET to be part of that world, to help make a difference, to shape the kind of learning environment my kids are part of. Instead of I HAVE to help them with a science project, I GET to help them learn about something in a new way. Instead of I HAVE to help my kid with the school play or band practice – I GET to help foster a talent they love and want to be part of. When you look at parenting with this new perspective, this fresh set of eyes – you will be amazed at how much more joy you’ll find in every day. It’s like you are looking for the gifts that have been there all along, only now you can see them plain as day!
Over the years, this transformed mindset has evaporated the stress surrounding otherwise mundane activities and replaced it with the joy of knowing that I’m here, now, with my kids—and life is great! The benefits are magnified when I say it OUT LOUD: “I GET to take you to state finals this weekend!” It’s a reminder to me that this time is fleeting and I should treasure every moment. But saying “I GET to” out loud also reminds my kids how much I love being their mom. How’s that for a win-win?
I know there are still times when we’d all really rather not trek through a cross-country course with the crowd for a chance to catch bits and pieces of our kid’s race on video or ride on a bus with 60 not-so-sweet-smelling teens on a field trip. Or any other task that in the past may have seemed like too much, too often. I’ve been there. Heck, we’ve all been there. But I’ll share this with you -- I’ve also dropped my oldest son off at college and gracefully exited a life I’d now dearly love to tag along on. And there are days I’d do just about anything to have some of those precious minutes back. Keep it all in perspective, friends. This time is gone way too fast. Now, the next time you’re faced with an “I have to” kind of day, take a deep breath. Grab a coffee. And then think, “What do I GET to do with my child today?” Then do that. Happy parenting!
Amy McCready's new book is "The 'Me, Me, Me' Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World." Learn more at AmyMcCready.com.