Ten or twenty years from now, they won’t remember the Princess breakfast that you spent hours and hundreds of dollars arranging for the first morning of their first trip to Disneyland. It’s more likely that they’re going to remember something you can’t possibly predict. Something small, and seemingly insignificant to you right now. The plastic wings from the flight attendant on the airplane you took to California. Getting to order dessert from room service and watch a PG-13 movie waaay past their bedtime. They won’t remember how much you spent on their bar mitzvah, or their quinceañera, or their sweet sixteen party. They’re going to remember that little bit of unknowing reassurance you offered in the days leading up to their party, when they were worried that nobody would come, or that they might screw up the dance they’d planned, or the speech they had to give.
As we’ve said before, one thing you have to be careful of as a parent are the little moments. Because isn’t that what we remember from our own childhood? The tiny gestures that speak volumes in between and inside the bigger ones that are supposed to grab all the attention?
Every time we lose our temper, every time we blow something off, every time we forget, every time we let our own issues get in the way, we are sending a message about what we think of those in between times, of those small moments…and it’s the wrong message. Because the little moments, the garbage time—that’s 90% of their childhood. And they have to matter.
But before you get too worried, remember that this is an opportunity. If 90% of their childhood is these small moments, then every time you show up, every time you sit next to them on the couch, every time you listen to one of their stories, every time you’re on time to pick them up, every time you make them a sandwich—or get them something—you are sending a positive message that has a chance to reverberate through their lives long after you’ve passed from this earth.
You are telling them you love them. You hear them. You want the best for them. You are telling them you care. You are telling them that they matter. You are telling them that you are their parent, that you will always be with them
What’s it going to be?