Recently, I watched from the side as my husband nagged my daughter about putting on more cold-weather gear before soccer practice. She was frustrated because she already planned out what she was going to wear, and he wouldn’t stop.

He wasn’t wrong. It was cold and wet.

After a few minutes of bickering and near-tears, I finally looked at my amazing husband and said, “Stop. She either will bring more clothes or she’ll be cold. She may be miserable, but she’s not going to die. We can’t go to college with her and remind her to take a coat.”

And you may think I’m wise because I’m picking my battles, but to be honest, that’s not it.

I only got about an hour that day to spend with her. She left for school early and came home late. I had to run errands and returned home right before she left for practice. When she arrived home, she was so tired that she watched TV with me for 15 minutes, and then she went upstairs to take a shower and go to bed.

I only had 60 minutes total with her yesterday—and I know I didn’t give her my full attention that entire time.

I realized that it’s not time that’s speeding up—it’s the amount of time I have with my kids each day is dwindling.

How do I want to spend that time? Can I pour enough love into her in an hour to get her through the trials of her day?

So, I told my husband to stop needling her about her gear, and when I told him why, he got it, too.

I’ve spent the first 12 years of my daughters’ lives teaching them lessons about how to care for themselves. Brush your teeth. Don’t forget to floss. Get your homework out of the way so you can relax. Be kind. Pick up after yourself. Help to pick up for others. Here’s how to make spaghetti and meatballs.

They already have so many life skills, and now that they are teenagers, it’s up to them to choose to use them where I can oversee.

And while I’ll keep on teaching them how to survive in this world, set boundaries, and help them to become productive adults, my job now is to encourage them in every way.

I want to use that small amount of time I have each day to make sure my daughters know they are loved, that I am so proud of them, that they have a safe place to come home to every night.

I want to use my 3600 seconds to help them chase their dreams and talk about their problems and support them when they are stressed.

And I know that we still will have fights about wet towels on the floor and dishes in the sink and why they did not walk the dog, but when I can, I do not want to waste the small amount of time I have with them on this minutiae. I don’t want them to tune me out every time I open my mouth. I don’t want every conversation to end in tears.

This doesn’t mean I let them get away with being slobs or not adhering to their responsibilities—but the stuff that doesn’t matter, the stuff I know they need to figure out on their own? Well, I’ve covered that.

Our time with our teens is limited, it’s moving fast, and it’s important. If you have the opportunity to pour some extra love in whatever time you have, do it.

They need it. You need it. And it’s really the only thing that matters.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.