I Want to Hold Onto These Years When My Kids Actually Enjoy Being Around Me

dad and daughter

This weekend I watched my daughters believe that they could do anything.

I watched my oldest look up at a sand dune that, as I’ve discovered, is 240 feet high. I watched the determination in her eyes as her grandma asked her if she wanted to climb it. She unflinchingly shouted “yes!” and took off running up the hill. I watched her struggle up the hill, losing ground, but confidently trudging higher and higher until she stood at the top. She threw her arms up and bolted down that dune with a kind of abandon that people my age only dream of.

I watched my middle child venture into a freezing cold ocean in nothing but her bathing suit because “that’s what you wear in the ocean.” I stood on the beach in a sweatshirt and jacket and was mesmerized by the way she fearlessly danced through the frigid waters, stopping every so often to bury herself to her knees, then bursting forth, repeating this over and over again, never seeming to grow tired.

I watched my youngest daughter, on the verge of standing up on her own, pull herself up over and over again on the edge of a table. Every so often she’d try to balance herself, fall, then get right back up again as if nothing had happened. She didn’t care that she was failing again and again. She was determined.

I’m not going to lie, parenting has been really hard these last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the time change, or going to bed when it’s still light out, but all three of them have been in rare form lately. Tantrums, whining, fighting, whatever else they can do, they’re doing it.

So I took the week off. I vowed to myself that I was going to do my best to see the amazing things that happen, not focus on all the things that are going wrong. I was going to revel in each held hand, each unsolicited hug, each belly laugh. I was not going to let the world, or my career, or my stress, or my own projected insecurities ruin a week with my kids.

As I sat on the beach yesterday, watching my seven year-old fill a bucket with every shell (or crab carcass, or piece of seaweed, or soda can) that she could find, I looked up and saw another family with teenagers, taking a walk on the beach. Mom and Dad were walking hand in hand, while both kids were on their phones. They were standing next to what I believe is the most beautiful thing a person can lay their eyes on, and they were on their phones.

I know there will come a day when my kids aren’t interested in me. There will come a day when we take our walks on the beach and they lag a few yards behind me. There will come a day when we tell them we’re headed to the beach for a week and instead of jumping up and down screaming, they’ll roll their eyes and head back to their phones. I know those days are coming.

So for now, I’m soaking this up. There are tantrums being thrown, and public meltdowns. There is whining about what we’re having for dinner, or going to bed before the movie is over. 

But there are also hugs and little sandy hands reaching up to take ours as we sprint back to the car after getting caught in a downpour. There is hot chocolate being had by the fireplace, and those extra long hugs before bed, and when all is said and done, these are the moments I will choose to remember.

 

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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