I took my first trip today since our daughter was born three weeks ago. You would think being away by myself would be a welcomed reprieve. Maybe I’m being overly sentimental, but it was difficult saying goodbye.
Not more than an hour later, I found out why.
Driving to the airport, I happened to notice the exit we had used to take our then 17-month-old son to swimming lessons this past winter. As I drove by it, I reminisced on how much he loved to go down the slide into the pool, float on his back as I sang to him the ABC’s, and how difficult it was to get him to blow bubbles in the water.
As I continued to the airport, I grieved those days. They’re over now.
I missed my family even more.
In fact, when I got to the airport I immediately sent my wife Christi the following text:
And it’s all true…
Airports are a lot more work with infants and preschoolers.
Days are much longer with toddlers.
Nights are even more exhausting with newborns.
And marriages are a bit more tense with screaming kids.
But I’d never trade the long days, exhausting nights, tense moments, and hard work for anything. Ask me in the moment, and I might say otherwise. But stepping back, alone in my car with time to reflect, I realized how much fuller my heart is because of my family.
I love to speak, travel, and work. But I can genuinely say there’s no place I’d rather be than with my wife and kids. As I stood waiting at the airline ticket counter, I glanced out a window and noticed an airplane sitting on the tarmac. But I didn't see a plane. I saw my son running to that window pointing with excitement, saying “Da-da pwwaane!”
As I came back to reality, I realized in that moment the gift God gave to get us through the long nights, colicky babies, talking back toddlers, and chaotic homes. A gift that’s often undervalued. A gift we’re generally ungrateful for. Yet, a gift so strong it’s the glue that keeps our family’s hearts connected—memories.
Why are memories so elusive though? Why do we not see them as a gift?
Maybe it’s because I just called Christi on FaceTime, and Kennedy (our three-week-old) was crying (okay, wailing) in the background, and Landon (our two-year-old) was whining to hold the phone.
Maybe it’s because Christi will be awake nearly every hour through the night tonight, while I rest peacefully in my hotel room bed.
Maybe it’s because you have a hungry, angry, tired, or bored little one at home and you’re not sure how to handle it anymore.
Maybe you’re simply trying to survive. If so, I'd encourage you to also read Do You Really Have What it Takes to a Parent? I think you'll be surprised.
There are two ways to make the most of what memories have to offer:
1. Embrace the Moments
The mundane can be a tough place to live. But it’s in the mundane that I’ve seen my son simply kiss his baby sister any time he hears her crying.
It’s also in the mundane at 4:30 am that my baby daughter and I have had our sweetest moments together—cooing, smiling, and praying.
When you’re frustrated, stressed, and tired, embrace the small moments. Write them down. Don’t necessarily pull out the phone either. My best memories are captured in my heart and mind, not on my phone.
2. Get Away
This one is critical. It’s why I didn’t realize any of this until I was alone in my car.
- Christi has a girls’ night with life-giving friends once a week, while husbands stay home and watch the kids.
- Christi and I have a date night every Friday—just the two of us. No kids allowed.
- And if one or both of us miss our quiet times, we find our fuses with one another much shorter than usual. So we tenaciously do what we can to allow the other the time needed away alone with God.
Husbands, here’s where you can bless your wives. Give her a day off from the kids. A spa day every now and again. A pedicure. My wife simply likes to go to a coffee shop and read.
No matter the means, you need to get away from the mundane to appreciate the moments.
As I drove by that exit remembering how my son struggled to blow bubbles in the pool, I couldn’t help but smile seeing him just last week plunge his face in the water and blow. It won’t be long now until he’s swimming faster than me.
Moments I don’t want to miss. Moments that keep us connected.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh loves combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and enjoying life while doing it. You can read more of the boring professional stuff about Josh and his books here, if you’re interested. Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh has fun parenting their son Landon and daughter Kennedy. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.