An interviewer once asked Nobel laureate Toni Morrison how she had become such a great writer. Did she study a particular method? Read books to hone her craft? Study under famous authors?

To which Morrison laughed and replied, “Oh, no, that is not why I am a great writer. I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into a room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer. There isn’t any other reason.”

I find this story both encouraging and convicting. Encouraging, because it shows what a profound effect this man’s love for his daughter had upon her development. Convicting, because it begs the question: How will my children will remember me?

Will they remember a mother who took utter delight in their company? Or one who was too distracted to notice when they entered a room?

Will they recall eyes that danced as she listened to their stories with unfeigned interest? Or eyes that drifted back to a book or computer screen or art project before half a dozen words were uttered?

Will their minds replay the unceasing stream of affirmation, love, encouragement and respect that flowed from their mother’s lips? Or will they be haunted by criticism, disapproval and remarks made in anger or frustration?

Will they envision a mother who willingly and patiently laid aside projects, plans and pastimes whenever she heard them call, “Look, Mom! Watch me, Mom! Mom! You’ve got to see this…”?

Or will they remember a mom too busy to be bothered?

Will they remember a mother who smiled?

These are valid and important questions for any parent. The mother I want my children to remember in coming years is the mother I must be in the here and now. The father you want them to think of once they’ve left home is the father you must be before they go.

We’ve all heard it said, and I can attest to its truth: Children grow up fast.

The relationship we’ll enjoy with them in the future must be built in the present. In that relatively short time they are under our care. We can’t afford to spend it distracted. Or irritated. Or disengaged.

It’s crucial that we maintain an eternal perspective. We need to view today through the lens of tomorrow. We must not be annoyed by our children’s interruptions, but recognize them for what they are: opportunities to teach, to train, to bond, to joyfully communicate our love and acceptance, to invest in the future.

A future that will be upon us before we know it.

How do you want your children to remember you? What steps will you take today to make those memories happen?

Jennifer Flanders has been blessed with 12 children and 10 grandchildren, which translates into a lifetime of opportunities to learn from past mistakes and do better going forward. To read more from this author, please visit

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