Tina and I got married young, 18 and 21. We had two babies by the time most people graduate college. Tina cried when we found out we were expecting our first child. It was scary. We did not know much about raising children; at least we didn’t think we knew very much, but it turns out we knew enough. We knew we had to work together, We knew we had to be a couple before we were parents or we wouldn’t be good parents. We knew the world didn’t revolve around these little people and that they were going to adjust to us, not the other way around. But the best thing we knew, and the best thing our kids came to know about us was the most simple thing of all. It was that we wanted to be where they were and we wanted them to be where we were. Together. We learned that it was good to be together.
I didn’t think about this until years later, when my kids were mostly grown, but I learned this from my Dad. Wherever my Dad went I went with him. He was a football coach so I was there for two-a-days. He was a life guard at the pool, so I was there getting a tan. He taught drivers ed classes and I was at the driving range. This was normal. This was what we did. This was good. It was good to be where my Dad was. It was good to be where my Mom was too. My kids grew up knowing that wherever Tina and I went, they could come with us. Of course there were exceptions, but the normal order of business of our family was together. There is nothing better our kids can know about us than this: they are welcome; they belong with us. Our kids need this more than they need a new pair of Nikes or to be on the travel softball team. They need confidence there is a place they belong and we can create it for them. It doesn’t take money or social status to do it. It takes relationship space; it takes room in your heart that makes room in your thinking and room in your schedule. It doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. It doesn’t take much more than putting your kid in the seat with you and going to Target instead of going by yourself. It takes longer, but what are you really trying to accomplish with your life? More efficiency or a family legacy of belonging? It’s a good thing to set this habit in place when our kids are younger so they grow up knowing they are welcome, but it is never too late to start. Make a space for them now. Even if they don’t fill it or appear disinterested (yes I know what teenagers are like) the consistent offering of place in your life impacts their minds and hearts.