7 Years: That's All We Truly Have
Today my wife brought up something that I never thought of in my entire life, both as a child, a teen, a parent, and now as an adult.
A question that opened my eyes and literally made me grab my kids and hold them close.
A question that I now share with you, and hope changes the way you perceive your children, the time you spend with them, and how you spend it--Or at the very least, that it gives you something to think about as a parent.
"Have you ever thought about the fact that you only really have 7 years to hug your children in your arms as they sleep, because they'll be sleeping on their own for the next 60 years of their lives?"
At first glance, it doesn't sound as profound or thought-provoking as I make it out to be.
But I want you to think about it.
From the moment our child is born, we as fathers, as parents, do our best to spend as much time as we possibly can with our children, despite our busy schedules.
Some parents do, some parents don't.
I literally know of some wealthy couples whose day are broken down between 8-12 hours of work, 1-2 hours of "me" time, 1-2 hours of "couple" time, 1 hour to tuck the kids into bed, and the rest being "personal sleeping time". These couples are high powered executives, some are top caliber entrepreneurs, while many are stuck in the middle class, where working 8-12 hours seems to be the norm to survive.
Some of these parents employ nannies; some leave their children with their grandparents; others use day cares, while some use both day cares AND grandparents.
And most often than not, the more time they spend away from their children, the more money they make. The more money they make, the "happier" they think they are. And what's worse, many believe that the more money they make, the more stuff they can buy for their kids, and those kids in turn will love them more.
That last one is a common sickness for many Filipino parents--the "If-I-Buy-Them-Stuff-They-Will-Love-Me" disease. Or as my favourite uncle puts it, "Love expressed in a different way".
All this time, the child is growing up in the company of strangers. Some get the privilege of growing up with grandparents who often guide them in a way their parents may have guided them--after all, these are the people who raised your parents.
Others are unfortunately raised by nannies from birth up until the legal age where children can be left home alone. It is the nanny who wakes up at night to feed the baby, to change the baby. It is the nanny whom the child sees, and the nanny who the child shares his/her first's. The only time a mother or a father actually gets involved is bedtime, thinking reading their child a story, tucking them in bed, and kissing them goodnight amounts to good parenting.
The same parents who wonder why, at the age of 16, their child wants to desperately move out. The same parents who wonder why their children never talk to them, despite having the latest iPhone. The same parents who get angry when their toddler runs up to the nanny first, and the mom second to never.
The same parents who someday, on their deathbed, wonder where their children and loved ones are, asking themselves "Where did I go wrong?".
7 Years from birth. That's all the time we have as parents to truly enjoy being a parent, to truly establish a connection with our children. Think about it. Think about YOUR life.
When you were 8, did you like it when your mom or dad kissed you in front of your friends?
When you were 8, did you like it when your parents say "I love you baby/sweetie/buddy" to you in public?
Or didn't you find it annoying and "childish" when your mom or dad sleeps with you in your bed at night just so they can hug you?
Did you like it when they held you or hugged you in public?
Or better yet, did you even listen to them back then?
Chances are, you didn't. Now imagine how things are today.
Today, where toddlers are parked in front of TV sets playing Treehouse or Disney Junior for hours on end.
Today, when children as young as 3 are given Nintendo handhelds.
Today, when 9 year old boys play Call of Duty (Google it)
Today, when 7-8 year olds often talk back and even yell at their own parents, threatening to call 911 if the parent attempts to spank some respect unto the kid's candy ass?
Today, when iPhones and Canon cameras are gifted to 12 year olds "just because"
Today, where so many girls get pregnant at 13-14, and boys as young as 14 and 16 are arrested on national television? (Just saw 2-3 teenagers wanted for attempted murder, 1st degree murder, and suspected murderon I believe KTLA News at 6 PM today I think)
From birth to 7 years of age.
That's all the time we have to not just create a lasting bond of love and respect from our children, but also the only time we have to truly enjoy being a parent.
Where we are still the most awesome/prettiest/strongest person in the world in their eyes.
Where they still want to hold our hand, in case they get lost.
Where they still call out our name with sincerity and endearment.
Where they still cry to us whenever they have a booboo, expecting us to make it all better.
When they still listen to every word we say.
But most importantly, it is between birth and 7 years of age that our children's hearts and minds aren't preoccupied by the vices and concerns of this world. Where their heads wouldn't be filled with thoughts of toys, money, wealth, and esteem. Where their hearts aren't concerned with love, jealousy, rage, prejudice, and hatred.
When both their heart and mind are open to the concept of how love should feel like--the kind of love that only we as parents can show them in all it's purity and sincerity. The kind of love that will simply never die.
So take a minute to think about your life. Think about where you're putting your time into. Think about how much time you're giving your children. Because I'm sure you can squeeze in more than you already are. Don't wait until they're older. Don't wait until they're done school. Do it NOW.
Remember, at 16-18 they'll already want to leave.
At 25, they'll most likely have their own place stable.
At 35, they'll be married and expecting their own baby.
At 40, they'll have kids of their own.
At 50-60, they'll have grandkids.
Just as we only have 7 years to truly enjoy and be parents, our children will only ever have and enjoy our company for 16-18 years...Out of a possible 60-70 year lifetime.
It really is that short.