Recently I was in a conversation with a lady about some of the choices she was making with her children. These were not necessarily Biblical decisions, but they do reflect the life of a believer. They involve good stewardship, building strong family dynamics and giving us a format to teach our children about Jesus. As the parents of four boys, we made several mistakes, but these were some of the best choices we made when our children were young.
1. Experiences Over Stuff. When my oldest was six or seven years old, we made a conscious decision to focus on having wonderful experiences together over getting them more and more toys. One Christmas we took the money we would usually spend on gifts and got a hotel room at an indoor water park. It was basically empty, and we had a great time together.
2. Cheap Over Expensive. You do not need to go broke making these experiences. One year we waited in line for a coupon book the radio station was giving away to a local amusement park area. That summer we took a couple of trips and enjoyed everything free we possibly could. Let me be honest, at a young age your children do not understand what is expensive and what is not. A city park can be as much fun as six flags for a child and way cheaper.
3. Teens Over Toddlers. One thing we discovered is that anything we did before the age of twelve was forgotten. There might be a faint memory, but those usually came more from a picture, home video or family story. I recently asked my boys about the experiences we had in Alaska when we lived there for five years. We have now been gone for almost five years, and they have very little memory of most of what we did. As a result, we decided we would take our big trips when the boys were old enough to remember and appreciate it. We make a special trip the year our boys are a senior that they get to choose. I am glad we saved the money.
4. Together Over Isolation. We do things as a family. If one of the boys has something happening, then we all go to watch, support and enjoy. We generally do not send our boys off to anything alone. That means we sometimes have to do crazy things like all of us sleeping in a van in a parking lot, but it is a memory we share. When we go to amusement parks, we try to stay together even when I hate the ride. We go to games as a family even when we do not all enjoy it.
5. Us Over Me. When the boys were born, I gave up my week-long fishing vacation. My wife has really never had a “girls’ night out.” We made a choice when we had kids to raise them ourselves. We did not leave them very often with baby sitters or grandparents so that we could go have our fun. We chose to give up our trips while we have kids living in our homes. Now, we are already planning to travel when the boys are all off in college and gone, but while they are in our house, we will be a family.
I don’t know if you find any of this to be helpful or challenging. Maybe you hear echoes of your own parenting or even your childhood. These were choices that we made that have given us a close relationship with all our boys that I would not trade for anything. Great families are the result of good decisions, and these are some we made. What would you add to my list?