If you knew you only had a year left to live, or perhaps just months, what would you need and want to do with and for your children? This last year has been painfully inspiring to me as a mom – I’ve watched friends bury spouses way too early, leaving young children behind, and I’ve been blessed to hold the hands of a dear friend who is terminally ill as she somehow is able to eloquently separate sickness from parenting and give her children memories to sustain them.
All of these moments have stirred inside me a growing need to create my own parenting bucket list. Those things I’ve put off, dreamed about, or hoped to do are now making their way to the forefront – my tally of all the things I want to do as a mom before the kids have made their own life lists. The truth is that none of us know how many more days we have the privilege to parent our children. My parenting bucket list represents the time I hope I have to nurture and treasure these kids.
What’s On My Parenting Bucket List?
My list seems to grow every day, but here is a sampling of what I hope to accomplish as a parent and the experiences I hope to share with my children. From the simple to the spiritual, my bucket list is also my love list of how much I want to keep pouring into their lives.
- Camp – and really rough it. We’ve done the campground adventures, but I want my kids to experience what I remember from childhood – hiking to a spot flat enough to set up camp, searching for firewood, and digging a hole for bathroom privies. No reservations, electricity, or running water. Not only would this be an awesome adventure, but it would be a real life lesson in self-reliability.
- Go to a rock concert together. My kids are now getting to that age where they want to attend a concert that doesn’t involve puppets or purple dinosaurs. Fortunately my kids are also of personalities where they are OK sharing those experiences with their dilapidated parents. There is hope yet for this bucket list item, but I think my husband has dibs on AC/DC tickets.
- Seeing them truly embrace their faith. This is just one of those things that comes with age for so many people, and I am watching my older children bloom as they find their faith paths. I want to provide them with examples of my own faith so it will help them find their own.
- Visit the Grand Canyon. I think nothing helps make us feel our aptly appointed small corners of the world more than seeing the vastness of something great like the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been yet and look forward to the day when I can share that experience with my kids.
- Have all of the age appropriate conversations I should. And find a way to record the others – just in case. I think that one of the most aching things I have ever heard is my friend regretting that she won’t be there to give advice for first dates or first weeks of college. None of us are guaranteed those moments, but on my bucket list I am now writing letters to my kids for precisely those moments. If I’m here to share the joy, I don’t think I’ll regret the time it took to write those letters (which I’ll still present anyway).
- Giving them the reasons why. Kids always ask Why? I may not have all the answers, but I beginning to record some of them that I do. Why did I turn down my “dream job” offer when I was 22? Why did your sister get to pick her own room in the new house? Some of the answers might be surprising, and some of them too simple – but they will hopefully help my kids learn more about our family if I can fill in some of these blanks.
How Do I Create a Parenting Bucket List?
There are no rules – except to let your heart and your imagination take over and lead the way. I try to put myself in the position of my dear friend who is preparing to leave her children way too early, but the pain is almost more than I can even imagine. It is difficult to fathom how a mother feels in those moments. But I am determined not to let my parenting bucket list be filled with sadness – I’m looking ahead and dreaming of the future – and asking myself lots of questions.
- What stories do I need to record for my kids for the future?
- Who would fill my shoes if I were absent – and would they fulfill any of my bucket list items?
- What are my “Top 10” bucket list items?
- How (if it does at all) does money change the priority ranking of my bucket list items?
- How are my parenting bucket list items different from my personal bucket list items? How are they the same?
As gut-wrenching, faith shaking, and devastating as it is to watch parents know they are dying and leaving their young children behind, it can also be a blessing for those of us who witness it. We can use it as our kick in the pants to be just a little more present in the lives of our kids and come out with no (or at least fewer) regrets. It can be the best gift we give our kids. To borrow from a country western song –
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’
…Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin’.