I believe we often learn life’s biggest lessons through the small, regular, daily things we experience from the world around us. The big things change us, but the small things shape us. We are woven together by the scraps of each day; the moments that seem small and could easily be overlooked by others.
Parenting is full of these moments.
I have many memories that shaped the way I feel about myself, the way I view others, and my relationship with my parents. On the surface, they were extremely small, insignificant moments; but they mattered.
Now that I am the parent, I am the one who holds each of these moments in my hands, both good and bad. What I do with them, matters. I want to be intentional in everything I do for my boys so that I not only leave behind a legacy I, and God, would be proud of; but so will they. It starts with me, in the small scrappy moments of each passing day.
I am a big fan of legacies and traditions, and I believe that starts early. I want my boys to find strength, peace and comfort in me, as well as have the ability to create it for themselves. I want them to know I am always on their side and in their corner, and that we are a team. They love the idea that we are a team and each day for different reasons, we say, “Go Team!” We cheer for each other, we support each other, we help each other, and we are always there for one another. I want them to also understand that God is their ultimate cheerleader and confidant and to always look to Him. I try each day to do things that are honoring to God and that fulfill the legacy and purpose I feel is set out for my life with my boys.
Here are 10 things I do every day that I feel help lay a strong foundation for my boys to stand on.
1. Let them help.
Kids are eager to be a part of whatever you’re doing. Whether I’m cleaning, exercising, eating or sitting, my boys want to be right there with me. I love how much they want to help, and I want to foster that desire in them early. That desire to help others starts at home and spreads out to the rest of the world through their lives.
2. Acknowledge and celebrate their effort. Whether or not they got it right is not the point.
My oldest two are not even 2 1/2 yet; so there are many things they “help” me with that in reality aren’t that helpful. When we do dishes, they put them in all over the place. When we clean up the living room, they put the couch cushions back all wrong.
Many times, them helping me in fact makes things slower and messier. That’s ok! How it looks and how long it takes is not the point. I am teaching them that being a helper is important, and not only does it make me happy when they help, it makes them happy too. When I tell them, “Wow buddy! Thank you so much! You did a great job! You’re such a good helper!” their little chests puff up, their chins perk up a few inches, their eyes sparkle and they look at me with a smile and say, “Yeah!! I do a good job! I such a good helper!” That’s the point. I can fix the couch cushions and rearrange the dishes later. Don’t sabotage the message for the principle of correctness. There is a time and place for that, but sometimes, how it looks or how it’s done just isn’t the point.
3. Make eye contact. Smile.
For almost everything my boys do, they look to me for approval. They search for my smile and wait for my attention. Eye contact matters. Children deserve the respect of eye contact just as adults do, and it means as much to them as it does to us. And a smile goes a long way. My boys can sense my love, pride, happiness, joy and attention in my smile and it matters to them. Also, how can you do anything but smile when it comes to little faces like these?
4. Give them your undivided attention. Put your phone down and be fully present.
This is one I will admit gets me at times. I do everything on my phone…write, pictures, email, etc. So I have it with me at all times. This is ok, but not always good. There are simply not enough hours in a day and sometimes I try to multitask by accomplishing things while also playing with my boys. I have been called out on it by my 2 year olds. They have said, “Mom, put your phone down. Watch me!” Ouch!
So I try hard to be focused on them when I am with them. It means I don’t get much sleep some nights and there is no down time, but to me, they are the most important thing. If I have to stay up late to accomplish the things that are for me, that’s what I have to do. Kids need to know they matter enough to put your phone away and give them your undivided attention. Time with them is a gift. Don’t miss it!
5. Get down on their level.
Getting down to your child’s level makes them feel important and understood. Always being literally talked down to is not fun. Kneeling down to be eye level with your child not only helps them feel heard and appreciated, it also reminds you to take a different perspective. Rather than always looking down, it reminds me to look up and around; and there is a lot of beauty to be seen from that angle.
6. Show affection and let them know they are loved and cherished always.
I hug and kiss my boys from the second they wake up til the last moment of the day. I want them to be men who are able to give and receive love, and that includes physical affection. Hugs and kisses cure a multitude of ailments, whether you’re 2 or 92. I want my sons to know they are cherished and valued always. One easy way to do that is loads of snuggles, hugs and kisses…and in the case of boys, wrestling matches and tickle fights. Rest assured, even when they are teenagers, I will still hug and kiss my boys. Beyond hugs and kisses, I make physical contact with them often, especially when I’m talking to them. I place my hand on their leg, scratch their back, rub their arms, or smooch their face. We give butterfly kisses, play little finger pointing games, and just do lots of little touches and acknowledgements throughout the day. Different people have different love languages, but however you do it, show affection to your kids!
7. Listen to them.
I want my boys to listen to me when I speak, and they deserve the same respect. What they have to say is important. I want them to always be able to talk to me, and if I don’t lay the foundation for that now, listening in the small things, they won’t want to tell me the big things later. The other night Ethan sat on a stool after our bedtime story and prayer and he said, “Mommy, I want to talk to you.” My heart melted. And we talked. It was a moment that I want to repeat over and over for the rest of my sons lives.
8. Pray with them and for them.
I have prayed for my boys since they were in the womb. I pray for them more than I pray for myself. Since the boys were about 18 months old, we have prayed together every single night. I’ve never been overly comfortable praying out loud. I always felt like I was doing it wrong, sounded stupid, wasn’t eloquent enough in how I said things, and people would be judging me. First of all, that is all wrong. Second of all, I want my boys to always be comfortable and confident in praying, whether silent or out loud. That starts with me. I have to model a relationship with God for them, and through that, they will come to understand and have their own relationship with God. I pray my sons will become powerful, praying men with hearts for God; but they will have a much harder time getting there if I don’t do the same. Praying together not only bonds and strengthens our relationship with God, it bonds and strengthens us as a family.
9. Teach them to be brave; and what brave really means.
Bravery is a noble trait and something all people desire to be. Kids, boys in particular, are often commended for their bravery when they do scary things or face fear head on. While this is important, I want my boys to know that being brave also means NOT doing certain things, even if everyone else is. Sometimes being brave is being able to admit when you’re scared. Bravery isn’t always just doing something dangerous or getting back up after you fall down. Sometimes being brave is standing up for what you believe in, sticking up for your family (or yourself), or getting out of a bad situation. I want my boys to be brave and to know that I believe in their bravery. But most importantly, I want them to understand what brave really looks like, and that they already are brave.
10. Tell them you’re proud of them (for who they are, not what they do), And encourage them to take pride in themselves for the same reasons.
“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.” Bill Ayers
It’s important to me that my boys always know I am proud of them. I have been and always will be proud of things they accomplish and achieve; but more than that, I am proud of them because of who they are. I am proud of their good hearts, their strong minds, and their sweet souls. I want them to understand and take ownership of that. I want them to be proud of themselves; not just because I am, but because they see and value themselves as much as I do. I’m proud of them because they ARE great, not because they DO great.
What things do you do to create a solid foundation and leave the legacy you want for yourself and your children?