“A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” Ever feel that way when it comes to parenting? I know I have.
So much of the early years of child rearing is repetitive. Feeding, diaper changing, naps, more feeding, more diaper changing, more naps. It’s easy to forget that life is moving forward and not in circles. Then, you blink twice and your child is entering kindergarden, middle school, college. And you wonder: “Where did the years go?”
A simple way to celebrate and to remember the little stitches that make up the tapestry of your child’s life is by writing annual birthday letters. It’s a tradition that I began the day my sweet Annie was born, and habit that I have (miraculously!) continued through the years.
Each year, around her birthday, I sit down at the computer and chronicle the past year – the highs, the lows, the funny things, the challenges and the beautiful ways I have seen her grow and develop. It’s a record of God’s faithfulness in her life. God told the Israelites to remember…and it’s a great practice for us, too.
An interesting thing about these letters: I didn’t give them to her as I wrote them. I tucked them away in a file, knowing that the “perfect time” to give her the accumulated letters would become clear.
Amazingly, that opportunity appeared last year. My brave daughter felt called to take a semester off from college and go to Uganda to serve in an orphanage. Not only was she going to be missing UGA’s football season (a huge sacrifice if you know her), she was going to be alone on her 20th birthday. Halfway around the world. With not one person she knew.
I really struggled with how to best celebrate her on that birthday. The “make birthdays special” part of me desperately wanted to mail a package to the orphanage in advance of her arrival, complete with confetti and streamers. I was assured that the package would be opened and emptied before ever reaching it’s destination. Scratch that idea. Then I remembered the birthday letters.
Off I went to the office supply store with all 20 letters. I made a pretty cover and had them spiral bound. Then I wrapped this little missal up and put it in her suitcase, with directions not to open it until her 20th birthday. Although the letters weren’t a complete antidote for the loneliness she was experiencing, they were certainly a reminder to her of how dearly she was loved and how faithful God had been to her through the years.
Here’s what I’d say, young parents:
-If you think you’ll remember all the special moments in your children’s lives, trust me…you won’t!
-Looking back helps you to savor the days and the stages.
-It’s never too late to start this tradition.
-Investment advisors will tell you that “past performance is not a predictor of future results.” That’s not true in God’s economy. By remembering God’s faithfulness in your child’s life, you will be better equipped to face their future with confidence and courage.
And for my “vintage” friends, this idea applies to you, too! Begin writing birthday letters to your grandchildren. Your perspective on your grandchildren’s lives is invaluable. What a priceless heirloom you will be creating!
Yes, this takes a little time. No, it doesn’t need to be perfect. But it’s a tradition that you, your children and grandchildren will someday cherish. I promise.
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