Millennium Parenting

Families - February 11th, 2000
tokyoweekender_Diane Wiltshire

by Diane Wiltshire

Is it just me or has the pace of parenting picked up? It seems like every parent I know is trying to squeeze more hours out of the day in order to earn a living, run a home and raise the kids. Even though our generation of parents has the benefits of the latest technol­ogy, raising kids today seems more labor intensive than ever before. In addition to shopping for groceries and preparing the meals, washing the clothes and cleaning the house, making doctor appointments and reading bedtime stories, there is much more to being a good parent these days.

You can run yourself ragged chauffeuring to prac­tices and activities, volunteering al school, attending sporting events and performances, and selling up play dates ior the little ones while supervising the older kids’ social lives. Then there is the push to excel aca­demically which has resulted in testing and tutoring, and pressure to get into the right schools; not just colleges but preschools! Whew!

We spend an enormous amount of time and money to give our children the best opportunities in life, and then one day it’s over and they’re gone and on their own. When that day comes, what will they remember, and what traditions will they continue with their own families? I know that even now, my children’s fondest memories are not so much of expensive vacations or major events, but of down time together, simple ritu­als like “family-night video” with popcorn and hot chocolale, or spontaneous outing- and funny adven­tures we had together (like the time I fell in the moat at Tokyo Disneyland).

The religious and cultural traditions that we shared with our children each year will also forever be a part of their history.

When my children were small, older and wiser parents advised me to savor each day because all too quickly the kids would be grow n and not need me as much. During the years of infancy and toddlerhood, it was hard to believe that I would ever miss dirty dia­pers, sleepless nights and temper tantrums. I can’t say I miss those days but memories of their younger years are sweeter than I would have imagined.

I do know that the time with our children seems to be passing more quickly than ever. We can now count on one hand the years left before our oldest will go off to college. My parenting resolution for the new mil­lennium is to slow down, seize the moment, and enjoy the journey that’s left. Children seem to have a natural ability to live in the moment; lately I’ve been remem­bering the few times I was able to do that and how wonderful it was.

One of my favorite memories is a trip to see the children’s grandparents in the US when the boys were 3 and b years old. As we drove around the first few days visiting relatives and shopping, the children noticed colorful fields of buttercups blooming along the roadside. Almost even day the boys would beg me to stop the car so that they could pick flowers and run in the fields. I thought it was a nice idea, but we always had another agenda.

One night as I was tucking the boys into bed. I noticed how much longer their legs seemed since our arrival. It hit me how quickly time was passing and how my children were changing every day. Then I thought about those fields of buttercups. What if I kept postponing the outing until one day the boys didn’t want to pick buttercups, or what if the flowers slopped blooming’ I decided right there that it was time to pick some buttercups.

The next morning the children squealed with joy when I stopped the car and let them jump out to run in the fields of flowers. It has been a favorite memory of theirs all these years, and it was such a simple thing I think that part of the fun was abandoning the schedule and going with the children’s plan. Even now. it is often surprising how much fun our family has when we get unscheduled for a moment. In our kids’ minds, these are some of the best memories.

Whenever parenting in thus new millennium seems too harried and stressed, I think I’ll look at these dried butter­cups framed on my desk and pull out the little placard the boys tucked in my Christmas stocking this year. It says, “You never know when you’re making a memory.”You never know when you’re making a memory.