When our oldest son turned 17 last month, my husband took the day off from work. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He was present when each boy was each born and he’s been present for every birthday since (he also takes my birthday off, which is very nice).
The night before the big day, my husband was talking with a colleague. When he told him that he’d be out of the office the next day and why, his friend sighed.
“My daughter is the same age. When she was little, I made a list of the things I wanted to do with her. Now she’ll be going to college in two years and we haven’t done any of them,” he lamented.
Relaying this story to me later that evening, my husband ruefully laughed and said, “I couldn’t commiserate. I realized that I don’t have a list like that. I do pretty much everything I’ve want to do with my family.”
While he felt bad for his friend, I think he, himself, felt blessed.
Setting Family Priorities
We’ve all heard how at the end of life, no one wishes they’d spent more time at work, away from their family. I think we can all relate to that sentiment and most of us believe that its true.
Yet while a lifetime (hopefully) gives you decades upon decades to grow up, grow wise and set your priorities, the timeline for parenting is short. Sure, we’ll be our boys’ parents forever, but they won’t live with us forever.
When our guys were young, we were pretty much homebodies. We didn’t often go out with friends or leave them frequently with babysitters. When we did go out or away (and my husband and I did have several big work-related adventures sans kids), the boys were with their grandparents who live nearby, having their own adventures, big and small. Almost always, they have been with family.
Over the years, this has sometimes frustrated some of my friends. Since I usually can’t think of anything better than spending time with my family, I have a hard time committing to girls’ trips and getaways. It’s not because I don’t love and value my friends, it’s just that going away with them is something that can wait for the future.
Will I regret the trips I’ve passed on? I don’t think so. Do I look forward to new adventures in the future when my sons no longer live at home? Absolutely.
What’s on Your List?
Obviously, every family is different and I recognize that not everyone can rely on family or prioritize the way we have (or would even want to).
Still I think it’s important for parents to take stock now and then and make sure they’re not setting themselves up for regret. Why? Because no one wants to end up holding an unchecked list and staring at an empty bedroom.
I have another sweet anecdote from the night before our son’s birthday. When we asked our gregarious, outgoing, friend-oriented son how he wanted to celebrate, he didn’t hesitate. “I want to spend time with the whole family, and since my grandfather loves to fish, I guess we should go fishing.” He picked up his phone and invited his grandparents. And, together, we had a tremendous day and celebration.
Like I said, no regrets.
- Turning Kids Loose: Where, When and How, January 4, 2013.
- One Tough Mother, July 11, 2012.
- Family Hiking, Camping and Getting Outside: Tales from Two Mamas, June 27, 2012.
- Biking on His Own Terms: A Pushy Mom’s Lament, September 28, 2011.
- No XBox. Not Now. Never. September 7, 2011.
- Learning to Fly, August 25, 2011.
- Hello, Goodbye, December 21, 2010.
- Skippin’ School, October 13, 2010.
- How I Ruined My Teenager’s Life — You Can Do It Too! September 29, 2010.
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