“The days are long, but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin
Missy Number 1 turned 10 today, and she’s celebrating it with a sleepover at her friend’s house. I still remember the mundane routine of endless milk feeds, diaper changes and agonizing over broken sleep. As a parent, the days can feel long at times, but the years sure are short. A friend told me the other day, “Before you know it, she’ll be 18 and leaving home for university!”
“Seize every moment. Enjoy your kids while you can.” I hear these advice often and even dish them out myself. However, if not for photographs and videos we took of our children growing up, I don’t think I can remember exactly what they looked or sounded like as babies and toddlers. To be honest, some days, I didn’t enjoy my children very much, especially when they were throwing a tantrum or pressing all my wrong buttons. How do we enjoy our children and seize every moment in the ups and downs of life, and avoid regrets later on once they have grown up and left home?
If you have read Parts 1 & 2 of this series, you would know that I went through several sessions of counselling after Missy Number 1 was born in my recovery from postnatal depression. These sessions were based on a programme known as “Watch, Wait and Wonder”. I covered my adaptation of “Watch” and “Wait” in the other articles. In this final Part 3 article, I would like to focus on “Wonder”.
To wonder about something is to reflect and ponder about it. To feel wonder is to experience amazement and awe. I like these two definitions of “wonder” because it sums up what parenting is all about. As we take a step back and reflect on the amazing creations that our children are and what they are like, our hearts are filled with joy and amazement at who they are, and the privilege we have as parents to be blessed with little “mini-me’s” that we can care for and love.
Some days, wonder comes easily. Our children may say something quirky, show a new skill or just behave really cute and loving. On other days, when the flu bug hits the house, when there are meltdowns and quarrels, when we’ve had a long day at work, wonder takes a bit more effort to come.
Here are some ways we can cultivate a sense of wonder in our interaction with our children, and in turn, teach our children to have a sense of wonder about life.
1. Pause & Wonder
We are all busy, but we need to be intentional and prioritise time with our family – daily, weekly, monthly- and not see it as an intrusion to our lives, but a privilege. I believe many of us do this with family mealtimes, reading to our kids before bedtime, celebrating birthdays and going on holidays. However, how many of us “spend time” with our children, but we are really checking our phones, watching a show on YouTube and chatting with a friend? I have to admit that I do that too.
The challenge is to still our busy minds and be present, to engage with our children in meaningful conversation, and show an interest in their current topics. It is when we hit the “pause” button in the myriad of things we tend to worry about and the lists of things we need to do, that we begin to truly connect with our children as we talk, spend time and play with them. And it is in this connection that the sense of wonder comes as we see our children as they really are.
2. Create & Wonder
My mother started a “life album” for each of her three children, and we carried on adding to the life album once we were old enough. Each page held pictures of a year in our lives. I managed to fill mine until I was 21, and still cherish the memories in that album to this day. I am grateful to my mom for creating something so special, as it captured precious memories both for her and for me.
We can’t travel back in time, but we can certainly create memories for a lifetime. Memories are based on our experiences, but the way we capture these experiences is important too, to help us remember. In our digital age, we take endless pictures and videos. Unless we are organised enough to print out selected photos for display, they just end up in virtual folders on our computers and phones. Scrapbooking is a great way to involve our children in the process of wonder, as we create a tangible way to remember the wonderful experiences we’ve had as a family.
Another idea I got from a friend is a “quote book”. I started a quote book for each child after they started talking and coming up with quirky lines. It allows me to look back and be filled with wonder at how my children’s minds worked and how much they have grown. My older daughter has grown to appreciate her “quote book” too and likes to read hers. This is what I recorded 6 years ago, when she was 4:
I was using a plunger to clear out our clogged toilet this morning…
Missy : Mommy, what are you doing?
Me : Trying to unclog the toilet.
Missy peers intently into the toilet bowl.
Missy : Where is it?
Me : Where is what? It’s stuck.
Missy : I know. Where’s the clock?(she heard “un-clock the toilet”)
3. Express & Wonder
I am thankful that I grew up in a household that expressed love and affection easily. “I love you”, hugs and sitting on my father’s lap were normal daily occurrences. However, I know it was not my parents’ experience when they were growing up in their families. They made it a point to change the culture of how they wanted their family to be after they got married.
It is important to use the magic words frequently with the people closest to us: “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “I forgive you”, “thank you”. My husband and I try to be specific when we appreciate each other. We don’t stop at “thank you”, but we list out the things we are thankful for about the other person. Being humble and admitting when we have made a mistake is huge as it models to our children how authentic relationships work. As we express our love in words and deed, our relationship with our spouse and children is strengthened. It will help us retain the sense of wonder at the people in our lives.
I hope you have enjoyed this “Watch, Wait and Wonder” series, even as I have enjoyed writing it. Parenting can be tiring at times and it is a marathon, not a sprint. As we take a step back from our busy lives to watch and wait, I hope our hearts will continuously be filled with wonder at the blessings we have been entrusted with.
About the Author: Jess Chan is married and has two school aged daughters. Aside from being full-time “minister of home affairs” and “transport minister” to her little family, she also serves as the Field Administrator for World Outreach International, a Christian mission organisation that has a presence in 70 countries. Jess and her family moved back to Malaysia in 2017, after spending 10 years in New Zealand and 6 years in Thailand.