PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 208 | How To Maximize The Time We Have Left

How to maximize the time we have left with our children.

Show Notes:

In today's episode, I discuss how little time we have left with our children (and how to maximize that time).

Statistically, once our child turns 18, 90% of the time we will ultimately spend with him/her - is already spoken for.

Translation: Once our child goes to college, it's possible that we will only see them another 60 times (total) over the next 30 years.

If you're interested in this topic and making an effort to maximize what time you do have left with your child, give this episode a listen.

Show Transcript:

Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. Today I want to discuss how to maximize the small window of time we have left with our growing teenagers. It's a short period of time and it's easy to take for granted until it's gone. And then we're left scratching our heads wondering where all the time went. Let's not let that be us.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the statistic that says by the time our children turn 18, 90% of our parent child time will have already been spent. Let me repeat that. By the time our children turn 18 years old. 90% of our parent child time will have already been spent. As my 10th grade math teacher might say.

Translation We shouldn't expect to see very much more of our kids once they leave for college over the course of the next, say, 30 years. And I know that may seem obvious on the surface, but when you look at the numbers, it's pretty stark. 90% of our time together is already spoken for. Yikes. And, of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Maybe your child moves back into your house for a few years after graduating from college. Maybe they buy a house down the street from you, and that's where they raise their families. Who knows? But statistically speaking, we may not have much more time to spend with our kids. I'm talking a double digit number of days left for the rest of our lives.

Think about it this way. If your child goes to college and gets a job right after graduation on the other side of the country or even overseas, where they start their busy careers and a family, and let's say they manage to see you twice a year for Christmas or Thanksgiving, maybe a wedding, a graduation for the next 30 years.

Which I would say is not unrealistic. That could mean that you would only spend another 60 days with them over the course of the rest of your life. Contrast that to the last 18 years where you've probably spent over 6000 days with them. So we're going from 6000 days and now we have 60 days to go. Does that get your attention?

I know it gets mine. And of course, our teenagers don't always want to make these last few years together easy. In fact, sometimes it seems that our teenagers willingness to even be in our presence is waning, often by the hour, especially once they get their driver's license. So what can we do to make the most of our time together?

Well, obviously, to the extent possible, try to get involved in whatever they're doing, whether it's a school play or a soccer tournament, birthday party, family vacation dinners at home, family movie night, whatever you do together. Of course, this is always conditioned on us being able to get time away from our jobs, helping with our other children, caring for our own elderly parents, spending time with our spouse and the house, and the many other things that are competing for our time.

I have no idea what spending more time with your teenager means for you specifically because everyone has their own routine. But I just wanted to bring this idea up before it's too late. You really want to make sure you maximize that 90% window, and maybe this rule doesn't apply to you. Or maybe you're already maximize in time and relishing every moment with your child or your children.

That would be great. Or maybe you've been so busy that it doesn't even occur to you that the window is closing quickly and dramatically. I have three sons in college already, so theoretically I'm already beyond my 90% parent child time with them and I'll be doing everything possible to make sure that that 90% number doesn't apply to me.

But there's no guarantee that I can pull it off. I'm hoping that it helps to live in a house in San Diego with 12 surfboards in the garage, only 5 minutes from the beach. But even that might not do it. My youngest son is 14. He's a freshman in high school, so I still have a year, year and a half or so to make sure I put in my time with him before he gets his driver's license and disappears.

One easy way to do this is through sports. He happens to be a water polo player, so there's a lot of driving to and from practices and games and tournaments, which thankfully gives us a lot of time together, at least for the time being. He's got weekly tournaments up in Orange County, which is about an hour away by car.

So we get some good drive time there. And if he's anything like his older brother, we may have some recruiting trips to take in the coming years, which are always fun. You're flying to college XYZ, you're renting a car together, getting a hotel, touring the campus, meeting with the coaches, going out to eat together, the whole nine yards.

That's super fun. I also have the privilege of driving him to and from high school every day, at least for another year or so, which is about a 20 minute drive. And it's that trip to school that I try not to take for granted. In fact, my wife often asks me, Are you sure that you don't want me to pick up tonight?

Don't you want a break? And my answer is always No, thanks. I got it. No problem. And so I happily make the 45 minute, sometimes hour round trip two times a day, every day for years on end with no questions asked, no complaining, no whining, no rolling of eyes, no exasperation, because I know what's coming. I know that the 20 minutes of uninterrupted car time on the way to school won't last forever.

In fact, it would last about another 421 days when he gets his own license and doesn't need me anymore. But who's counting? And the trips to and from school aren't necessarily all flowers and roses. It's tricky. He doesn't really love the idea of sitting in chatting with me for 20 straight minutes on every back and forth trip to school or to practice.

He's down for it some of the time, but not all the time. A lot of the time he'll put his AirPods in and listen to his music and his own world while I sit driving in silence. And that's okay. I'm not looking for a 100% engagement at all times. I know that's not realistic or healthy, especially with a 14 year old boy who has a lot of other things on his mind.

Now, I have a personal rule of thumb known only to me that says at least 50% of the time the AirPods in the phone get put away. Now, I want him to do his own thing and listen to his music and scroll on Instagram. I don't want the trips to become chores, but I also refuse to spend every waking hour in the car shut off from him because he's wrapped up on the phone and music and texting and laughing and whatever else he does, that's not going to fly.

That's too much in the other direction. As I said at the top, these moments are fleeting and it takes a lot of discipline to sit next to him in the car for 20 minutes, just watching his head bebop up and down to the music. But it has to be done. He needs alone time. He needs time to chill.

The other 50% of the time. However, when the phone and the AirPods are put away, we talk. We chat about school and upcoming tests and the latest school fight and the new transfer student and who's dating whom and which teachers are good and bad, and which kids are filling balloons with vape smoke in the bathrooms and leaving the balloons there so the smoke doesn't trigger the smoke detectors.

We talk about sports and politics and finance and recruiting and working out and career and history and family dynamics. We often listen to portions of podcasts together, episodes that I find particularly edifying or controversial or thought provoking. And of course, I learn a lot about my son during these sessions. Certainly more than I do when he's bopping his head along to some rap song.

Is it a perfect solution? I don't know what I like for 100% of our time together in the car to be spent productively. Sure, that would be nice, but it's unrealistic. I know. I have to give him some time, some leeway, some freedom, some room to breathe. I want it to seem as natural as possible. And not that I'm keeping track of our time together on some spreadsheet, even though a little bit of that might be true.

I want there to be a back and forth. He gets some time to do teenage boy stuff as annoying and unproductive and mind numbing as it might be. And then he spend some time expanding his horizons and learning and thinking about real world issues and how he might make his way in the world. And so far at least, I think it's been successful.

We've covered some incredible topics. We've learned about the world. We've listened to engaging podcast. We've debated many controversial subjects. And I'm glad at least 50% of the time that I'm more than just an anonymous Uber driver who gets him to school and practice on time. I have come to cherish these car rides. As mundane as that sounds, even the ones where I sit in silence and let him do his head bopping thing because I know the time is nigh when even those anonymous trips where I'm nothing more than an Uber driver will be a thing of the past.

So my suggestion is to make the most of your 90% when you have the chance. Don't take the time you have with your kids for granted. Don't curse under your breath when you have to make the thousandth trip to the same school or piano lesson or lacrosse field. Think of it as a privilege. Try to make the most of it, even if only 50% of the time.

So here's my challenge. The next time your child asks for a ride to school or practice or speech and debate or some other event. I want you to smile, be enthusiastic, and cherish every one of the minutes you're together in that car. Remember, according to the statistics, once our children turn, 18 will only have 10% of our time left on earth to hang out with them.

The clock is ticking. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies, online mentoring program or high schoolers, and their parents receive weekly videos from me where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships.

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