The Three Best Things You Can Do For Your Children

Some time ago I was having dinner with my daughter, son-in-law and their friend, Kristen. I’m not sure how we got on the subject of children. Kristen is not a mom and this was well before Annie and Jerry found out they were having a baby. Perhaps we were talking about my son and daughter-in-law and what amazing parents they are to the now two-year old twins.

The very wise Kristen said, “I think the three most important things you can do for your children is to read to them, travel with them and love them.”

Those words have really stuck with me.

Read, travel, love

Having had such excellent role models in our own parents., I think (and hope) that Peter and I did a pretty good job following this with our kids.

We read to them.

Books have always been a big part of our family’s life. We made frequent trips to the local library, bought stacks of books at the annual book fair and were always the first to return our Scholastic Books order form.

Recently my son, responding to a Facebook meme listing his favorite books of all time, noted his love for the Encyclopedia Brown series. He said he was quite certain that there was a worn spot on the rug in the children’s section of our library where he remembers sitting for hours reading about the boy sleuth’s adventures. As his parent, I must say that warmed my heart.

At Annie’s baby showers, guests were asked to include a book with their gift instead of a card. This idea has been around for a while and I think it is brilliant. What a remarkable way to start a family’s library of children’s books!

Of course reading goes beyond books. We read newspapers, magazines, road signs – pretty much anything with printed words.

We regularly watched Wheel of Fortune as a family. Don’t laugh. Pat and Vanna provide a great tool for kids to learn to spell. And teach kids the difference between consonants and vowels.

Encouraging both reading and writing shows our kids the importance of words and language in our everyday lives.

We traveled with them.

Ok, so lots of our trips were to Disney World but still.

There is so much to be learned by traveling. Learning about new places and people, new foods and new customs. Learning to plan, read maps, pack a suitcase, make good choices with one’s souvenir allowance.

While books expand our imagination, travel expands our world view through experiences.

But travel doesn’t just mean expensive or lavish vacations.

Travel can include local experiences like a trip to the zoo or a hike in the woods. It can mean a picnic at the beach or day spent at the county fair. It can be a special occasion dinner at a “fancy restaurant” where best manners are required.

Travel, to me, means any experience that takes us outside of our own little world and opens our eyes to new people, places and ideas.

We loved them.

And always will.

Loving our children often means hugs and kisses, sweet words and “I love you”s. Of course it also means setting down ground rules to clearly identify expectations. And it means letting our kids work through decision making, using those boundaries as a safety net as they learn how to navigate the world.

As parents we show our love by protecting our children from harm, trusting and respecting them, encouraging them to become their own true selves, supporting them, guiding them and eventually letting them go to live their own lives and follow their own dreams.

I always say that we work so hard to teach our children to become independent than darn if they don’t just go off and become independent. But that’s ok. We do our job so they can do theirs.

And now that we are blessed with grandchildren, Peter and I have the wonderful opportunity to share these gifts with our next generation.

The best things you can do for your children AND your grandchildren?

Read to them, travel with them and love them.

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