Four ways to make childhood last

Can we hold onto that new baby smell?

The delivery-room experience is epic. More awesome than The Lord of the Rings. More mind-blowing than a come-from-behind championship win. (Cavs and Cubs come to mind.) I held my son and thought, he’s five minutes old.

I held my son and thought, he’s five minutes old.

I have the chance to watch his life unfold. I have a courtside seat. I decided then and there—I want to make childhood last.

Fast forward … my son and I are inseparable. “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” I’m surprised, I’m not sad at all he’s growing older. I’ve been there every day. I’ve seen all the moments, all the stages. It has required major life changes. I don’t know how others manage their time. It’s personal. I’m just here to encourage.

If you can sacrifice to gain more time, do it. It’s the best way to make childhood last.

Your child could use (more of) you

Big caveat: we’re talking about parenting time from a positive standpoint. You decide what you think is right. This isn’t a guilt thing. We’re here for ideas, that’s all. We’re looking to improve what we have. Not saying, things are bad and need to change. Not here. Never.

With that said, studies show fathers are important. (Great, right?) Here’s some evidence:

The pros in the white lab coats want us there. Super-involved. Sounds good. How?

Would you pay to slow down time?

Kids arrive into our lives like nothing’s going on. We’re already full. Life obligations. Work demands. Suddenly, we’re looking for time strategies. How to get more of it. Without losing anything we’re doing.

Cher once sang, “if I could turn back time.” But sadly, Cher can’t. Neither can we. We can only use the time we have, better. Time can’t be unspent later. We can only spend it differently.

Time is something we give away. We feel we have to. But we can say no, can’t we? To many people, referring to time as a “choice” is crazy talk. Life is non-negotiable—they’ll tell you. The new baby smell has to fade.

Take the job thing. Having kids can make work more important than ever. Imagine what a four-year college will cost in the year 2036!

Children want time with their parents most of all

The joyless father theme

Work takes up most of our lives. More work = more security. It’s common wisdom. We help our families by working as much as we can, to make all we can.

Only, there’s one downside. When we work hard to feel secure, we can give up our family as collateral.

Cats in the Cradle is a caring father’s worst nightmare

Cats in the Cradle is a tender 70s pop song that makes everyone feel sad. I mean, the song would get people shedding a tear in the car on the way home from work. And yet, the song was a big hit! It rang true, I guess.

This song is motivation to make childhood last. (Video opens in a new window.)

The song is about a distracted father. He lets his job take him away from his son. the man is never home. The son grows up without really knowing him. (Dang, getting sad just typing this.) The song ends even worse. Since the son has seen his father work so much, he does the same thing to his own family.

This song is a perfect bit of reverse psychology. Many of us know how easy it is to get wrapped up in work. You strive to clear your desk. It never happens. Cats in the Cradle is a caring father’s worst nightmare. The sitar begins. Chills.

(The 70s gave us other tearjerkers, Piano Man and American Pie. Really glad music got happier!)

Time > money

I’m a big believer in working hard. Sometimes, I worked 80, 100-hour weeks. It wasn’t a sad song that convinced me to change it up. I noticed, I never crossed a security finish line. The promise of security just kept moving forward. I chased after it. Through it all, I worked too much.

My biggest fear was actually time. (Poverty is always a close second.) It was the start of a reevaluation. “What did I need to feel secure? Could I live with less? Could my family live on less?”

Fast forward … I don’t have all the stuff that people have. I do have a bond with my son that is special to me.

Do you have the time bug?

If you don’t crave more time with your children, OK. You have a good balance already.

That “new baby smell” was important to me. I wanted to keep it going. I didn’t want to hear about the cool things my son did. I wanted to see them. To be there. It inspired me to make some drastic choices.

You’re fighting the toughest opponent in history. Father time is a tough guy.

Do you want more time with your kids? The feeling isn’t always one you can put your finger on. You climb uphill every day. You hope to get that long downhill of time. It doesn’t come.

You’re fighting the toughest opponent in history. Father time is a tough guy.

What are your drastic choices?

How do you make childhood last in your house? here are changes that (I’ve found) make a real difference:

Change jobs

I am serious. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

It’s acceptable for a more to change careers for family. That’s good. It’s good for a father too.

I’ll talk about the thing I know. The city career. It’s fast-paced. Demanding. You get into it when you’re single. Then, you ad marriage and family. It doesn’t work so well. Part of us knows, a city career is a single person’s career. It’s fun. It makes us feel important.

Fun. Important. These are things that your family is for. To admit that a city career doesn’t work anymore is tough. Those careers bring home the bacon. But you’ll buy back a lot of time when you transition out.

Give up one thing you love

For many, the job front is manageable. It’s not in the way of being a more present father. Something else is. That something else is a touchy subject. It brings us a lot of joy also:

  • sports on TV
  • outdoor recreation (trips with friends, regular weekends)
  • major video game hobby (clans, achievement hunting)
  • intense workout goals (marathon, triathlon, cycling races)
  • serious garage projects (restoring furniture or a car)
  • weekly volunteering/sitting on boards

It’s drastic … but try cutting it out. See what time you have leftover for your kids. It isn’t just physical time. It’s the mental focus we give to other things that keep us from thinking about our kids and their world.

To make childhood last, I traded the city for this

I’ll mention one thing I gave up. Take a look at this arid landscape. It’s where I live now. I spent 25 years working in the most cosmopolitan cities. Here, we can afford a home and we have the time we want.

Take on one thing you don’t love

Your kid has a different idea of fun. It may be a YouTube show that drives you nuts. It may be playing a certain game. In the case of a toddler, it may be wandering around the yard … for an hour.

Kid activités can feel like an hour sometimes even for 10 minutes.

We’re not bad fathers if we don’t like our kid’s favorite pastime. We’re not selfish if we grit our teeth while playing. We may go through the motions a bit. That play thing might grow on us.

The parent of a toddler will know this video series too well. (Video opens in a new window.)

Even if the activity doesn’t thrill me, the time spent with my child will often take over. I’ve watched more YouTube nursery shows than I think I ever expected to. I’ll watch my son watch it. See what he’s looking at. There’s something he enjoys that I can find fascinating. It lets me know what’s turning in his little mind.

Jot down one thing per day

(A small one!) Life can seem forgettable until you write it down. Little moments are fun to remember.

Family life consists of eating meals, going to the store. Watching a video. It’s the details in those activities that are fun. So why not make childhood last by reminding yourself of these moments?

Thee’s an app called Journey. It’s billed as a journal. I’m not saying to dot hat much. I jot down one fun moment per day in Journey. It’s nice to recall exact details. I also revisit them a month later, not a year.

Father and son have a snack on October 5th

This moment above reminds me of a fun exchange. I smile and watch his personality grow.

See how it works for you

We’re talking about real changes.

We’re even talking about drastic changes.

Father time won’t yield without a fight.

If we try to do it all, we won’t know what we’re missing. Our kids will grow without us. To make childhood last, we should remember. Any change we make for them will be rewarded.

Does the new baby smell have to go away? Probably, but not necessarily ….

Leave a comment below

What big changes did your kids inspire you to make? Have you kept changing things? What results have you seen? Let us know. Until next time.

This post first appeared at The Joyful Father.

All photos © Eugene Havens

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Eugene Havens

Eugene is a writer working on books and websites. Check out Eugene's novel here.

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