Updated: Jul 13
Doing Different includes managing all parts of life, but if I had to pick the most important area to get right, I’d say it’s your role as a parent. (Even if you’re not a parent yet, read on with your future family life in mind.)
Failure in raising children has probably created more human heartache and regret
than any other single thing someone could mess up.
Parenting, the Dream
Good parenting can happen no matter what else you do to pursue your dreams.
If you dream of moving to the country but end up staying in the city, you can be a good parent in suburbia.
If you keep your 9-to-5 job and never start the business of your dreams, you can be a good parent while you build a business for someone else.
And if you never make more than the median American household income instead of becoming a millionaire, you can be a stellar parent at whatever level of financial mediocrity.
But you have to put your mind to it.
And you have to be Different—in many ways very different—than the influences around you say you should. Our culture isn’t parenting-friendly, and the “unfriendliness” has trickled down to schools, communities, and even churches.
Trip Out on Parenting
Let me give you an example of Different that I never realized was anything spectacular until, through the years, I’ve heard many people tell me what a significant influence it was on them. My wife and I call it “the 10-year-old trip,” and I’ve just had a poignant reminder of its value.
In south central Arizona, Highway 188 crosses a handsome bridge over the Salt River as it exits Roosevelt Lake. And, recently, my oldest son sent me a photo he took of the bridge while on an anniversary trip there with his wife.
What made the image so special is that, 23 years earlier, he and I had driven along the lake and taken a photo from the exact same spot on his 10-year-old trip. Neither of us had been back since, and the memory of having been there with me is one of the reasons he took his wife on that particular drive.
To be sure, outings like a 10-year-old trip can be expensive. We always targeted a distant destination so we could treat our kids to their first airplane ride. But the painful reality we also discovered is the need to compromise when times are tough.
Our plans went without a hitch as our first four children turned 10, but then challenging financial times came upon us, and we had to get more creative with the subsequent four.
For instance, at age 15, I took one of my daughters on a “10-year-old trip” she had missed due to a low bank balance. She rode with me on a business trip that required renting a truck and driving client materials from Tennessee to Florida, and then to Arizona. After visiting the Grand Canyon and other Arizona sights (in our rented truck!), we flew home from Phoenix.*
Gifts that Don’t Mess Up the House
While the 10-year-old trip was part of our strategy to build relationships with our children at special times in their lives, there are smaller ways to do that as well.
We also took them out to breakfast individually on their birthdays—a real treat in a family that ultimately included eight children. Thirty bucks on a memory-making meal out forms a long-term memory that $30 worth of toys won’t.
This time of year offers a unique opportunity for an action step to get started on giving memories:
At Christmas this year, give an IOU for
a special trip or fun outing together:
A hike at a nearby state park
Or whatever suits your child’s
age and interests.
Doing things with Mom and Dad matters more than toys because it creates life-long happy memories of your child’s growing-up years. What's more, it provides the added benefit of not piling up stuff around the house.
*One other thing to consider if you want to make the “10-year-old trip” part of your parenting strategy: For a really big trip, you might want to wait until age 13. We’ve talked this over with our grown children, and they agree it would be nice if they had more mature memories of the experience, as a few years older would have allowed.
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