Every Parent Wants To Win

Growing up, I didn’t always have the best relationship with my parents. My dad was physically and verbally abusive, and my mom, while she was my greatest cheerleader, she wasn’t the mom I wanted; I was often embarrassed by her. Looking back, primarily because my mother’s journey has found her homeless and addicted to drugs, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my growing up years with her. 

She always decorated for every holiday, even the silliest of ones. She made my lunch every day and always left me notes. She helped Santa get me more presents each year than any kid should EVER receive. She would scream “Work it, girl!” at the top of her lungs when I was on stage for dance competitions. And she always made sure that when I finally got out of bed in the morning and was dressed, that my cocoa puffs were put in a cereal bowl dry, and a glass of milk was on the side so I could pour it in myself so I didn’t end up with soggy cereal. 

These are just the silly little things about my mom that I remember. My mom is still living and currently still struggling with her addictions, but she hasn’t been in my life much since I was 16 years old. 

I often think to myself, how would I have responded if I would have known then what I know now? If I had known how much she loved me? If I had known how much she wanted to be a good mom (through all the ways she showed me love), would I have treated her differently? If I had known that my time was limited? This is the heart behind the gumballs. 

Sunday, we had child dedications, where I handed each family a jar of gumballs. There were enough gumballs in each jar to represent the number of weekends a child had left at home before graduating high school (approximately 936 weeks from the time a child is born). For example –

775 gumballs for preschoolers

650 gumballs for 1st graders

468 gumballs for 4th graders

364 gumballs for 6th graders

208 gumballs for 9th graders

104 gumballs for 11th graders

The idea is that when you count the number of weeks you have with a kid, you tend to do more about making those weeks count. As you take one gumball out of the jar each week, the gumballs begin going down; you see what you have left. You get the idea. I invited these families to keep the jar in a visible place in their home and remove a gumball each week to illustrate how much time they have left with their kids. It’s a sobering visual reminder of how fast time goes.

Now, for me, I’m not a parent. But through looking back on the little ways my mom loved me that I didn’t even see and in my time in ministry, I have learned a few key things: 

1. I have a lot of influence on kids because of my role as their pastor.
2. The more time I spend talking with parents — every parent wants to be a good parent, and every parent wants to win.
3. I only get kids for approx. 40hrs a year, while their parents get them for 3,000hrs a year.
4. I can use my influence in a kid’s life to partner with their parents to point kids to Jesus.

And what’s even better is when the Church realizes that we have an opportunity to help build stronger families and gear everything we do towards assisting parents to make each week count; that’s our goal at NPNaz. 

The challenge I gave to our parents at child dedications: Make each gumball count. Make each week count. As a parent looking forward, it’s easy to take for granted how little time you will have to spend with your kids. This is why the gumball visual is so powerful; it’s a tangible way to illustrate Psalms 90:12, which says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

So what if you let this idea influence the way you parent? Go ahead and estimate how many days or weekends you potentially have with your kids. Establish a tangible reminder that you and your family can look at every day. It could help you become a wiser parent. Why? Because knowing the number of days your kids have left at home can make you more intentional as a parent.You will tend to be more intentional about–

Leaving work early

Watching your kid’s games

How you spend Saturdays

Driving them to school

Helping them with their homework

Going to church as a family

Tucking them into bed

Eating meals together

When you remember the days with your kids are numbered, you will make a better plan for your day. Why don’t you number the days you have with each of your children? See how it affects the way you parent. I may not be one myself, but I can tell you from the perspective of an adult kid who misses those weeks with her mom: What you do each week matters, even when your kid doesn’t act like it. And as the Next Gen Pastor here at NPNaz, I want to do all I can to partner with you to help you point your kids to Jesus.