Fresh Ideas: Life is short and your children grow tall

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"The best thing to spend on your children is time."

- Louise Hart

Perhaps it's the time of year. The approaching holidays always make me a bit nostalgic. Or perhaps it's the time of life. Whatever the reason, I'm noticing just how fast time is slipping through my fingers. You too?

When I was a child, it seemed I waited an eternity between Christmases. Now I swear I just took down last year's decorations and it's already time to put them up again. Yesterday, I was hoping Santa would bring me a Tiny Tears doll. Today, I'm someone'sgrandma. 

Of course, I love being Olivia's grandma. During a recent visit, I reveled in every new thing she did and said as she looked around her world. She named the animals and shapes she saw. She counted. She sorted shapes and stacked blocks. She carefully turned pages in books and whispered "Hush" at exactly the right moment as we read Goodnight Moon. She called me "Oma" for the first time.

Evidence of genius? Maybe. Maybe not.

What it does show, however, is that Olivia's parents take their jobs as her first teachers seriously. By the time they spend and their delight in her accomplishments, they show her that learning is a pure, natural, joyful state. Olivia will grow up knowing that she is important, that she is capable, that she is loved. She's lucky. Because of the time her parents are investing in her now, she stands a better than average chance at a happy and healthy life. No brag; just fact.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the nurturing children receive during early childhood correlates with greater achievement in every aspect of life. Healthy growth and development. Language acquisition. Success in school. Resilience. Kindness. The ability to withstand peer pressure and drug abuse. Perhaps even earning potential and life expectancy. 

Young parents have many demands on their time. Parenting is hard work, and coupled with work or school it can seem as if there simply isn't enough time. It's never been easy. In fact, I remember as a young mom complaining to my own grandmother that I simply couldn't keep the dishes done or the house tidy. She told me, "You will have dirty dishes every day of your life. You won't always have those children." She was right.

So just consider this a holiday reminder from my grandmother and me: Spend some precious time with the littlest people in your life. You won't regret it. These are the wonder years. Someday soon - like me - you'll wonder where they went.  

• Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.


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