When our children are babies, we wish they were old enough to sleep through the whole night. When they are toddlers, we wish they were old enough to stop throwing tantrums. When they are elementary school kids, we wish they were old enough to stop picking fights with their siblings. When they are teenagers, we wish they were old enough to end their rebellious phase. When they move out, we wish they were babies again.
We wonder what happened to all of the time that passed and look fondly at the memories of sleepless fights, silly tantrums, ridiculous squabbles, and curfew arguments. Every unpleasant moment feels like a lifetime ago, and we wish we could live through them again rather than let our children go.
“Soak It All In”
“You go into it thinking that 18-20 years sounds like a long time,” writes Misty Brewer Lee on Love What Matters.
“Then suddenly hours turn into days, days into months, and months into years.
“That little person who used to crawl up next to you in bed and cuddle up to watch cartoons suddenly becomes this young adult who hugs you in the hallway as they come and go.”
“And the chaos and laughter that used to echo throughout your home gets filled with silence and solitude.”
Lee discusses the challenges parents talk about when it comes to bedtime routines, childcare costs, injuries, helping with homework, a messy home, laundry, and packing lunches. Life is so busy between moments of tension and moments of pride, like cheering them at a ballgame or dance recital. Every day becomes hectic and there’s no wonder why we wish for a seemingly easier age.
Fortunately, we talk about how to tackle the difficulties that arise with child-rearing. What we don’t talk about is how to let go. When that time comes, it feels impossible. We’ve raised these children and it’s our job to care for them and protect them, always. We may guilt ourselves for mistakes we’ve made along the way.
“You ask yourself so many questions,” writes Lee.
“Did you teach them the right lessons?
“Did you read them enough books as a child?
“Spend enough time playing with them?
“How many school parties did you have to miss?
“Do they really know how much you love them?
“What could I have done better as a parent?”
The answer is that there is no answer. There’s nothing left to do but let them go their own way and pray you’ve given them the tools they need. Of course, it’s not goodbye forever, but it’ll never be the same as the days of trips to the park and bedtime stories. Parenting is rewarding but it’s also heartbreaking.
As someone who has lived through this, Lee has advice for parents just beginning their journey.
“So for all the parents with young children whose days are spent trying to figure out how to make it through the madness, exhausted day in and day out…“
“Soak. It. All. In.
“Because one day all those crazy days full of cartoons, snuggles, sleepovers, Christmas morning magic, ball games, practices, and late-night dinners…“
“All come to an end.”
How to Cherish Every Moment with Your Kids
Although it may seem impossible to look beyond the heaps of laundry, dishes, grocery bags, and homework, especially when they are coupled with work and regular adult responsibilities, take a few moments every day to appreciate the present. You don’t have to love every minute, but capture them in your mind before they pass, for one day you just might miss them.
Children don’t need super parents who can do everything; they need parents who spend meaningful time with them. When they rush off to school, friend’s houses, and extracurricular programs, and come home to relax and do homework, quality time can be pushed aside. As we know, people have less time as they get older, and so will your kids. So grab the moments now.
- Go on walks and really listen to your children talk
- Ban phones and TV from mealtimes,
- Get them involved in dinners like taco night or design-your-own-pizza
- Let them help fix leaky faucets, painting fences, or other home improvement jobs. This gives them life skills and quality time at once.
- Walk your kids instead of driving them to playdates or lessons. The extra minutes cut by a shorter drive can be priceless.
- Play their games, whether they like sports or video games. This creates natural moments of bonding through spending time together and by becoming involved in something they value. 
How to Raise Successful Children
Besides missing all of these moments of their childhoods, parents worry if they taught their kids everything they need to become successful adults. If the kids have already left home, this worry can be haunting and you must have faith that you have done the best job you could’ve, and it’s up to your children now.
If you are a new parent with little kids, perhaps bringing some awareness to teaching your children life skills will help ease this worry later on. (Except it won’t. There’s hardly a parent who doesn’t worry about their adult children, and there’s none who believe they did everything perfectly while raising them. But it’s still important to give your kids the best opportunities you could by teaching them skills for success. It’s not just a parent’s job to provide for small children; it’s their job to help them become upstanding adults.)
- Make your kids do chores
- Teach them social skills
- Show them the value of education and studying
- Teach them how to develop healthy relationships
- Teach to the importance of trying
- Show them good work ethics 
- Don’t jump in to fix their issues; let them try to problem-solve 
When the time comes to let go, you probably won’t be ready, and that’s okay. Just know you’ve done your best, and your child is capable of making it on their own. Until then, cherish the journey.