1. Tucking them into bed at night. Someday they’ll be too big and I won’t get that moment back. Saying good night, pulling up the covers, and kissing their heads is a gift.
2. Telling them I love them. Start this when they’re young. I love you is a powerful three word phrase that matters.
3. Listening to their stories. Their stories teach me about them and their hearts and what they love. I think of the stories as a way to learn more about them. And this is the real listening. Not the distracted mom who wants to move onto the next thing on her never ending to-do list.
4. Looking them in their eyes. Nothing tells another person you matter more than looking at them in the eyes while they talk. It shows that what they are saying truly is important to you. I want my kids to remember that there were times when their mother looked them in the eye and smiled. And for me this often means shutting my laptop, putting down my phone, stopping my list, and just giving them time.
5. Saying yes when it’s easier to say no. Like those times when I just want to keep to my agenda and they want to join in. Or for those late night sleep overs. Or those times when I am simply tired and don’t want to walk up the stairs to say goodnight. Or for the extra story. Or to play a game. Yes simply matters.
6. Showing them new things. I can read to my kids about history or I can start to show them history. Last week, when Grace and I were in Mexico, it was such a cool experience to show Grace the Mayan ruins in Tulum. Now, I’m not saying go to Mexico, but there are things we can show them. Do science. Look at the stars. Go to the museum. Let them learn and see the world.
7. Teaching them to say please and thank you. No explanation needed. Politeness matters.
8. Letting them help even if it means it takes longer for me. Does it take longer to wash the windows if I’m teaching my children how to wash the windows? Yes. Same with laundry, cooking, cleaning, folding, and more. But they need to learn – these are life skills. I would be doing them a disservice by NOT teaching them and letting them help.
9. Saying no to things even when it would be easier to say yes. There are movies and television shows that I don’t let my kids watch. Books that I want them to wait to read. ipods and computers that are only allowed on the main level. Sometimes the answer needs to be no – even if everyone else’s answer seems to be yes.
10. Laughing with them.Or smiling with them. Or having fun with them. I simply want them to know I love being around them. This is the aspect of liking my kids, not just loving them. I want them to know both.
11. Making them learn the value of work. I want my kids to know that work matters and that a good work ethic – where you go above and beyond and don’t complain – is an excellent skill. My kids know how to do laundry, to sweep the floor, to bring their dishes over, to clean their rooms, to make their beds, and so on. I will never regret teaching them the value of work.
12. Rocking them to sleep. Holding their hand. Giving them a kiss. I love them. Even after those days where they drive me a bit crazy and I wonder what in the world I’m doing. Those little acts of love are important life acts of love.
13. Saying I’m sorry. Because lets face it – I’m not perfect. I mess up. I make mistakes. So they need to hear me say I’m sorry and that I love them and that they’re important to me. So that means sometimes I will say I’m sorry.
14. Teaching them to be respectful of others. This. And this again. And this. I want my kids to respect others. To listen to them, to learn, and to not judge. This starts with me teaching them this skill and me being respectful of them. Often it is looking for the good first and giving grace.
15. Encouraging them to take risks. Sometimes the fear is the biggest obstacle. Kids need to learn to look at the fear and to push through the fear.
16. Not holding onto a record of wrongs. Each day is a new day. Learn from the past, but don’t hold onto the past. I want to see the good first and not all the negative – so often that means letting go of the record of wrongs.
17. Letting them see me thrive. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking I was a good mom, but a not too happy and joyful mom. They need to see me thrive and be interested in things and to expand my creativity as well.
18. Teaching them compassion. I want them to see the world beyond me and ourselves. I want them to give back, to care about others, and to be a person of change.
19. Showing them that the stuff doesn’t matter. Nothing in Target really matters. Nor the stuff on the shelves. Or the clothes one wears. Or the fancy birthday parties. If the stuff clouds the vision then the relationships are lost. Relationships first. Stuff after that.
20. Letting them grow up. Sigh. This. It has to be done. So I look back with nostalgia, and embrace today, and look forward to tomorrow. They’ll grow. And I’ll savor the moments that we’re blessed to share.
Those are just twenty things I won’t regret doing with my kids. Simple, things really. They’re the living intentional type things that sometimes just need to be written down.
What is on your list?
PS. My book The Brave Art of Motherhood shares how in all of these years to not lose your heart in the midst of motherhood. Get your copy HERE
All photographs used by permission and credited to Hannah Nicole.
Images and original content are sole property of Rachel Martin and may not be used, copied or transmitted without prior written consent.