Among my favorite memories is a lovely evening in late May of 1984. Just home from the hospital, I sat outside with my newborn son, listening while his two older sisters and dad played in the yard. Other happy memories stand out around this little boy, including his third birthday where he sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” wearing a football helmet and one of his sister’s ballet tutus.
I recently watched this young man pledge his troth a woman who is now his wife. And while I celebrate all that their future holds, I ask myself that age-old question: Where did those years go?
When we’re raising our children, we’re so caught up in the demands that we can’t see the passage of time. For parents, the days are long but the years are short.
What emerges at the end of that enormous investment is ultimately what children learn about their families in the midst of growing up with them, even when we weren’t aware we were teaching them anything at all.
What I realize my son learned from us was his sense of responsibility and his amazing capacity for kindness. I remember teaching him about responsibility, often following his failure to fulfill my expectations. He will recall my lectures when he forgot his homework/musical instrument/sports uniform.
But I don’t remember a single occasion of intentionally teaching him about kindness. How did he learn that? I hope the answer has something to do with the value his father and I place on kindness. We didn’t teach him to be a marathon runner or an engineer who could design a super-computer. These are not gifts we had to begin with, let alone be able to pass on to our children.
But kindness is a goal for our family. It makes me happy to think that perhaps this value was nurtured in him when we didn’t realize he was watching us.
Parents agonize over doing everything right with their children. But one day, their kids will grow up, and the families they create may reflect the values they hold most dear.