How Much Time Do You Have Left with Your Kids?

Maybe you heard it recently from the grandparents or other extended family:

“My, how the children have grown!”

Maybe you saw some old photos or videos and were stunned. Were they ever really that little?

It’s true: they do grow up fast. But part of it could be our perception, because we haven’t fully tuned in and savored every moment with them.

As fathers, we must make the most of every opportunity we have.

Consider this idea that was adapted from an popular e-mail that circulated some time ago:

Step one:

Think ahead and come up with a date in the future when your child will no longer be as available to spend time with you—maybe when he will graduate from high school or leave for college. Get out a calendar and figure out within a week or two when that will happen: two, five, ten or fifteen years from now. Then calculate how many weeks are left until that day. Do this for each of your children. (And of course you still have a strong influence after that time, but it isn’t quite the same.)

Step two:

Buy a bunch of marbles. Yes, marbles. Find a clear container for each child and fill it with the same number of marbles as the number of weeks you calculated for that child. For an eight-year-old, that will likely be more than 500 marbles. Put the container(s) in a place that you’ll see regularly.

Step three:

Once a week, take one marble from each container and throw it away. For this to be effective, you can’t keep those marbles—you have to toss ‘em. That will remind you that, even though you may have hundreds left, another week of your life and your child’s life is gone forever, like anything else you put in the trash.

Do that every Sunday night or Monday morning, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll soon begin to refocus your priorities. You’ll start to ask yourself, “What did I do with the opportunities I had to connect with my child, demonstrate love, show encouragement, and teach him or her about life?”

Now, your family may think you’re losing your marbles, but it’s worth it if you take the lesson to heart:

In today’s world, we need reminders that each day—and each moment—is precious.

Too many dads are working long hours, chasing higher salaries, looking forward to some “tomorrow” when they’ll settle down and connect with their families again. But those tomorrows seldom happen like we think they will. It’s today that really matters in relationships. Dads, we have to prioritize those most important things in life or there may not be room for them at the end of the week. Our children should be a top priority; we can’t let the most important things in life get squeezed out.

Since we are losing our marbles, let’s make it count while we still have them. Because indeed, our children do “grow up so fast!”

Do you ever feel like you’re missing opportunities to connect with and invest in your kids? What changes could or should you make? Interact about these and other real-life fathering questions on our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • Do you have reminders you bump into occasionally about how quickly time and opportunities with your kids passing?
  • Yes, your kids are changing and growing. Are you? How are you different from the dad you were 2, 5, or 10 years ago? What’s the area where you need to grow most right now?
  • Is the marble idea something you’d do? What would your children would think if they saw that kind of marble collection in your house–if they knew what it was for?
  • Are you more of a “live for today” kind of guy, or more of a forward-looking, planner type? Would there be benefits from moving more toward one or the other in your fathering?
  • Do the “end of your life” exercise: Imagine it’s years from now and you’re nearing the end of your life. What will matter most to you then? What regrets will you likely have? And what adjustments should you make today so that those regrets will be less painful and/or less numerous?

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.