This is Not a Dress Rehearsal

On my kids’ first day of school this year, I first dropped off my high schooler.

Gasp. How can I have a kid that old?

I always thought being the parent of a high schooler was for grownups! Heck, I remember when I thought that having a child in elementary school was for grownups. As I sent off my son to fend for himself in the big new world of public high school, I thought about how it seemed like just yesterday that he was a babe in my arms.

After dropping off my middle schooler, I was off to the elementary school for my 3rd grader’s first day of school. I stood there, looking at the sea of little kids milling around, and thought “oh my goodness, there are still so many active years of parenting left.”

How do we navigate this push-pull, zoom-plod through this chapter of our adult lives? On one hand, it seems like time flies by… and that’s what all the “older” people tell us. On the other hand, some days of parenting can last forever and find us counting the hours until bedtime stories are over and lights are turned out.

Perhaps the best we can do is to create snippets of time where we are fully present in the moment. Right here, right now with our kids. Two things that I’ve found help me savor the here and now with my kids and have left me with sweet memories of being fully present:

1. Say Cheese!

It can make such a difference if we just stop and be intentional about looking our children in the eyes and smiling at them throughout the day. In my family, if the kids start to leave without eye contact, I will say, “Eyeballs!” That is their reminder to stop and look me in the eyes. It’s my reminder, as well, to look at them. In our times of zoom, zoom, zoom, it can feel so good to stop and look in the eyes of the most precious little people in our world.

2. Stop and Feel the Love

Parenting involves so much giving, caring and work. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in all the tasks of parenting that we forget to really feel the love in our hearts for our beloved children. We can get grumpy when we forget to do that. A woman whose parenting advice I respect, Joyce Vissell, once suggested that each day, just for a few minutes, we close our eyes and picture our child at his/her sweetest. Then take a moment to see and feel all the love we feel for that child pouring from our heart to his/hers.

When it comes to parenting, “The days can last forever, but the years fly by.” I hope we’ll have fewer regrets when we look back if we make sure to live some of those moments to the fullest… as though this life is the real thing and not just a dress rehearsal.


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Kerry Stutzman MSW, LMFT

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