This past week my youngest child left for basic training. He chose to go into the Reserves so that he could pursue serving his country and get his college degree. When I sat down to write him a card of encouragement before he left, all I could think about was how much I was going to miss him. I thought about how difficult it was to let go of him knowing he could eventually be in truly dangerous situations. I thought about how not being able to communicate with him for weeks and months at a time was going to try my soul as a mother.
What I wanted to say was “Wait, don’t go. Just go to college. I want more time with you. You don’t really want such a dangerous and difficult future do you?” But, I knew what he needed was my affirmation. He needed to hear me say I believed in him, which I did. He needed to hear that I knew he was going to excel, which I did. This path he had chosen was what he wanted. This was what he felt God had called him and equipped him to do. So how could I not support him and affirm him? Selfishly I just wanted more time with him. As parents, I don’t know if we ever feel we have had enough time with our children.
Instead of telling my son to stay, I had his family and closest friends come over for a surprise send off. Everyone filled out cards with words of encouragement. I wanted him to know that while he was away, we were all here supporting him and praying for him. I wanted him to know I loved him. For him, love is experienced through time. Dinner has always been an especially important time for us. Sometimes we would talk and eat. Other times we would watch the television show, Cops. Finding out what is important to our children and then doing those things with them builds confidence and a connection between the parent and child.
Maybe it’s a twenty minute cup of coffee at Starbucks or playing a board game or doing a puzzle. It could even be playing a game of basketball, going thrift store shopping, or even making dinner together. But it is giving them time-quality time.
Proverbs 1:8-9 (NIV) says, Listen, my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
I am so far from perfect. I make mistakes with my kids. We all do. However, the Bible tells our children to listen to us and if the Bible tells them to listen, then God is telling us to teach them. The best times to do that are when we are spending time with them.