This is a Q&A with the author of Just 18 Summers, Michelle Cox.
Tell us about the event that inspired you to write Just 18 Summers.
My pastor dedicated a baby at church one Sunday morning, and as the parents turned to leave the platform, Rev. Sexton said, “Don’t forget you have just 18 summers. Go make some memories.” The poignancy of that slammed into me—particularly since my youngest son was getting married a few weeks later.
What is the cultural impact when parents aren’t actively involved with their children?
I was on faculty at a conference recently with NY Times Bestselling Author Cecil Murphey. He said something in his keynote that really struck home with me: “What we don’t receive in childhood, we spend the rest of our lives seeking.”
He went on to tell that he grew up knowing that his dad didn’t love him. Cec is 81 years old now—and there was still pain in his voice as he made that statement.
Moms and dads, do you want to make a difference in the lives of your children?
• Spend time with them. Teach them respect for others. Instill a work ethic. Show them kindness by example. Go to church with them. Take time to teach them about character and values.
• Have meals together at the family dinner table. Tell your children you love them. Laugh together. Determine now that you’re going to look back with sweet memories instead of regrets.
• We need to become more intentional. We schedule car maintenance appointments and doctor appointments. Besides the impromptu moments, why not schedule time to spend with our families?
• And one last thought for you. Sometimes even when families are in the same room, they aren’t really spending time together. Turn the technology off and talk for a change. The technology will always be there . . . but your children won’t.
You say mothers can use seemingly insignificant acts to make a difference in their children and the world. What do you mean by this?
You know, sometimes we as moms get a bit discouraged because we don’t see how God could possibly use our efforts as moms as we clean house, and change diapers, and do laundry—but because a mother packed a lunch with five loaves and two fish, her child was part of a miracle.
God can use our daily efforts in amazing ways, and it’s obvious that He values motherhood, because out of all the ways He could have sent His Son to earth, He sent Him by way of a mother. I don’t think the message could be any clearer than that.
Jochebed taught Moses about God’s deliverance, the Widow of Zarepath taught her little boy that God can supply our needs, Sarah taught Isaac that God can do the impossible, Hannah taught Samuel about answered prayers, Eunice taught Timothy about character and integrity, and Mrs. Noah taught her children about God’s provision and protection.
The question for us as moms is: What lessons are our lives teaching our children. What are WE leaving behind?
What can parents do if their children are older or grown and they feel like they didn’t spend enough time with them?
Unfortunately, we can’t go back and rewind yesterday, but folks can start now to begin making good memories together as a family. There might be scars from the past, and it might take some real effort to bridge the gap that’s been caused by those times, but it will be so worth it for everyone.
The words “I’m sorry and I love you” go a long way. Pray over the situation and make a consistent effort to be the loving supportive parent now that you wish you’d been before.
What do you hope parents will take away from the stories in Just 18 Summers?
Eighteen years sounds like a long time—but in most cases we really have just 18 summers before our children leave home. Eighteen short summers to make memories together, to instill character and life lessons, to enjoy the moments.
I hope parents will realize how quickly those summers will fly by. Take it from a mama whose sons are all grown now, someday you’d give a million dollars to walk down the hall one more time and tuck your children into bed, to kneel down and pray with them, to hear their footsteps and the sound of their laughter filling the house.
Savor the sweetness of those moments, because one day soon—before you blink twice—they won’t be there to do that. Don’t forget you have Just 18 Summers. Take time to make some memories.”
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