Earlier this week I wrote about actually knowing our kids, not our perception of them, but actually connecting and knowing their hearts. Being a Type-A ‘do-er’ I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on patterns I’m establishing with my kids. For better or worse, the path for our future relationship with our kids is being forged in the present moments.
What’s uncanny about rearing children is the timing. Traditionally, children are born to the young, in every way young, physically, occupationally, relationally. The three prime resources (time, energy, money) are depleted, yet there’s an unrelenting demand for more. All that to say, the following list isn’t intended to be a taxing exercise, but a springboard of ways to deliberately nurture the exclusive gift we’ve been given as a mom or dad.
At the dinner table, in the car, on the toilet best beware! Find a space for technology physically and chronologically and stick to it! Trading the present moments to ‘like’ a photo, read another post or look up more useless information is a sugar high that will leave your hearts empty.
Kids have allotments of ‘screen’ or ‘tech’ time, how about parents? Do your kids have to pry your texting fingers from the phone to have your full attention?
As first gen “smart” parents, we’re modeling how to monitor and adjust our own behavior. Are our kids learning how to make excuses to do what they want, or how to prioritize personal desire with what others need? Be honest with your child how you’re navigating the process. Admit distracted failure, commit and, well, you’ll probably have to continually repeat that process.
Sincerely, friends ask, “How are you?” Typically, we give the short superficial version of current life. Sheesh, attempting to answer this question posed by someone not current on the series of micro interactions life has brought is impossible! A couple close friends know what is near my heart, we keep current, but it’s impossible and unrealistic to accomplish this with many people. Prioritizing isn’t a valuation as much as a necessity with our time. Our kids will be grown; will they be our companions or acquaintances?
Through puffs of exasperation while running I’ve been able to get to know a few moms over the course of the past year. Mere strangers sharing bits of information over time has framed friendships. Have you experienced that with a mom at a play group or playground, the culmination of short interrupted dialogues leading to familiarity and friendship?
Fortunately, our kids are with us! Opportunity for bit exchanges can happen organically as we shuffle off to activities, break bread or pick-up around the house. In a way, it’s like literally verbalizing our tweets or Facebook posts (imagine that); these snippets allow us to stay current. Just as social media can leave us starved, relying on quantity deprives relationships of needed depth.
Fragments keep us current with the dailies, but we must feed the long-term by prioritizing and spending time in concentrated doses. With so many options to get together with friends or participate in another activity, prioritizing family time each week speaks volumes to our kids! Is there a night each week where everyone can simply ‘be’ together? A regular cross-town drive where music and tech get tuned out and conversation takes place?
As much as we fight the idea of shuttling our kids to activities, it’s a reality for most families. Connection comes in many forms, so take that moment to actually say “hello” after there’s been a goodbye. Give a hug, rub a back, slap a five, and enthusiastically greet your kids after you’ve been in different settings. Reconnect to stay connected!
4. Open Mic:
Driving to the gym in the early mornings with my dad while in high school my dad allowed me to speak from my heart. No strings attached. No guilt. No solutions. Just a caring ear with questions that made me think further without feeling the need to defend myself. My dad still gets privileged information because no matter what I’ve told him over the decades, it’s been allowed.
Nothing stunts a relationship like not being able to speak honestly and respectfully what we’re thinking and feeling. Start now and build that platform with your children! It’s an amazing gift and an investment that may yield the opportunity to be ‘in the know’ and provide counsel well into the adult years.
Sometimes our kids wave their finger and sway their hips, at least in their own way. Do you know your child’s sulk or saunter that is subtly pleading for attention? Fingers in mouth, aimlessly wandering, that’s the cue our youngest needs to be scooped up, held, reassured…Our son on the other hand gets physically in our space. These are the instances to stop-drop-and roll.
Nothing is more important in that moment than reconnecting with that little person; because nothing can fill the shoes of a parents reassuring love. Typically this happens when we’re in the middle of something, but I bet you’ve found putting things aside for a few minutes is feasible and fills a heart quickly.
As an imperfect mom, I couldn’t consciously suggest that this list is complete, so I humbly ask, would you please comment with a way you connect with your child, a practical means of relating, how you cope with a disengaged spouse….I guarantee your words will encourage and build the hearts of other readers! THANK YOU!