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The Positivity of Just 18 Summers

The Positivity of Just 18 Summers

Recently I saw a re-posted rant on Facebook. It complained “Stop telling me I only have eighteen summers.” In it, the author wrote that the slogan judged her and she outlined many negatives the phrase incited in her. She told that she was constantly stressed doing the math and traumatized about how much she may have missed. The writer pointed out the pain the comment would have if someone’s child died before eighteen years. She mentioned parents who might have a problem child or screaming youth they don’t even recognize. In summation she nit-picked that folks were telling her she was a bad mother if she didn’t enjoy every single minute of those eighteen summers.

I was saddened by her discouraged state. Not just because I am privileged to be a columnist for the Just 18 Summers on-line parenting magazine, but because the concept is a positive statement for me and real motivator for my fathering. I don’t take the “you have just eighteen summers” as a negative.

As a father, I recall the numerous articles I have read and speakers I have heard who reminded me the most pivotal moments that shape our lives occur in the first eighteen years. Many specialists claim it happens in the first five years. Some even claim it mainly occurs in the first eighteen months. That last one seems a little bit of a stretch to me, but I do resonate with the others.

If these experts are correct, I need to—as much as it is up to me—strive to make those years good ones. I need to enjoy the time. Yes, sometimes the days are long, but the years are short. I need to strive to teach important lessons, model a life of good character, and mainly, to make some wonderful memories with my children. I don’t need to obsess about every single moment or even every day, but in general, I need to remember to make the most of things.

The author did make two valid points for me.

First: We aren’t promised the eighteen summers. The loss of a child is a sad possibility. I have stood at a small gravesite with grieving parents. Life sometimes isn’t fair—no parent should have to bury their own child. And sometimes the moments come to an end due to the loss of the parent. Not everyone gets the eighteen summers.

Second: We shouldn’t interpret the “just eighteen summers” reminder as a stressor. We shouldn’t use it to regret the past. It should be a motivator and path-setter for the future.  A car has a huge front windshield for a driver to see where they are right now and what lies ahead of them. The car also has a much smaller rear-view mirror in which to see what is behind them. We should follow that example.

So, yes, I want to remember I have eighteen summers. If I’m fortunate enough that I have the child with me for eighteen summers, I want to make the most of it. And if I can excel in fathering in those eighteen summers, I think God will bless me with a whole lot more summer-type moments beyond the eighteen.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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