"…the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14b

"Hey Dad," my youngest daughter hollered from the backseat, "can you think of anything I could do that would be annoying?"

Anna was the only Seaborn kid at home that week (her three siblings were away at camp) so she had the back of our minivan all to herself for once. Until she asked her question, she had been playing quietly, allowing my wife and me a chance for quiet conversation up front.

Anna's interruption snapped me from dialogue, and the only response I could think of was a confused one. "Honey," I said, "why would you want to be annoying?"

"Because," she said matter-of-factly, "that's what kids do. We're supposed to annoy adults." The way she explained it, you would have thought it was a given, as accepted as two plus two equals four.

At that point, I had all I could do to keep from cracking up. The whole thing seemed absurd-after all, the way Anna viewed her role was clearly off-base.

Wasn't it?

I guess this is where I should make a confession: Certain aspects of parenting can drive me nuts.

When my children were toddlers, there were times when I felt like I was always either picking up toys or stepping on toys. Bedtime was an endless checklist: read another story, bring a glass of water, supervise the teeth-brushing, find the favorite teddy bear.

Dinner time was more of the same: a continuous shuffle of spoons, spilling, and sippy-cups. Getting the kids dressed to go out was an ordeal. Giving a bath was like climbing Mount Everest.

As I became accustomed to wiping up spills and fishing Barbies out of the bathtub, I often found myself focusing on the nuisances that accompany parenting. I can't wait till the kids get older!

Then the kids got a little older and grew out of some frustrating habits-but just in time to develop new ones. They fought with each other, they taunted the dog, and when our family went on long trips, they always managed to make sure the back of the car looked like Hurricane Mitch just swept through.

I can't wait till the kids get older!

They wanted to have their friends over all the time, they "needed" to go someplace every day of the week, they barged into their parents' bedroom unannounced.

I got used to playing referee, carting kids and friends, cleaning the minivan out with a shovel, and locking the bedroom door, but that familiar thought still repeated itself regularly. I can't wait till the kids get older!

Then things changed. In the past year, my oldest son got old enough to leave home. These days, he splits his time between our state and another, between a college campus and our house. And although he was the first to leave, his three siblings aren't far behind-they're getting older too.

So I'm thinking differently now, and I'm discovering another downside that accompanies children: they get older far too fast.

The way I figure it, I've got eight years left until all of my kids will be adults. I want to make the most of that time-to relish the moments we have together rather than wishing it all away.

Are you privileged to have children at home? If so, are you focusing on the joy they bring, or are you distracted by little annoyances that accompany them? Are you so busy looking ahead that you haven't appreciated what you've already got?

Compliment your kids today. Laugh with them. Sit beside them and ask about their day. Smile. Encourage. Play catch. Play Barbies. Let them be kids for now, and enjoy it with them.

Sure, you'll pick up the toys, drive the carpool, and fetch one more glass of water at bedtime. But in the process, don't forget to give your kids a hug and a kiss today, because tomorrow they'll be older.

Winning At Home Inc., is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article in conjunction with Winning At Home's staff editor Lisa Velthouse. E-mail your questions or comments to hometeam@winningathome.com.