When I was a new dad I wasn’t really into asking for advice. I was in my 20’s and I had most of my own answers for the problems in life. I even found myself offering parenting advice to my older acquaintances, as if my brief parental experience had revealed some new truths to me that must not have been obvious to my older parenting colleagues.
Now I realize parenting is something very challenging, and that every child is completely different. What might have worked well for one or two of your children may not work at all for the third. Or fourth. Oops.
I no longer pretend to be an expert. So why am I writing a column on “advice?” Because I think we can hold at least these three truths to be self-evident:
1) Your kids aren’t getting any younger, and neither are you.
2) Everyone needs a break now and then.
3) We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
Here are my thoughts on the three truths.
Your kids aren’t getting any younger, and neither are you.
Be sure to take plenty of pictures. You know your kids change quickly, and those memories can fade pretty fast. But I can also hear you saying, “I don’t look good in photographs. I don’t want to be in a picture today.” Well, someday you’ll be ten years older than now and then you’ll say, “Boy, I sure did look a lot better ten years ago.” Get over it and get in the picture with your kids. It will be fun to look back on all those photos later, and you will be surprised at the memories they will reveal. Try to take pictures of everyday life, the things you do routinely. Take it from an older dad, today’s routine will seem very precious to you later.
Everyone needs a break now and then.
Force yourself to plan a family vacation every year. I know; you’re busy. They need you at work. You have 1000 emails to read. Planning the vacation is work in itself. But none of that will matter the day you die. And ten years from now you will never be able to recreate that vacation with your 13-year-old. When she’s 23, she will be too busy to spend time with you. Think about it. Go somewhere fun together, even if it’s just camping for a weekend.
We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
Try to see the big picture. Most things that seem like really serious issues at the time really aren’t. So she spilled the milk, or he soiled his pants, or he scratched your favorite table, or she wrecked the car. If it involves things or money, it is a temporary issue, and can usually be fixed or replaced. If it involves people or feelings, make sure you are paying attention. These are the important things.
Have fun, laugh, giggle, skip, play some music, act silly, take a video and focus on the big picture.
P.S. If you’re married, don’t forget to also carve out some to be alone with your spouse. When you’re a better couple, you’ll both be better parents.