I truly cannot believe another school year has flown by. Weren’t we just school shopping and now here we are right around the corner from back-to-school flyers again. I always tell my friends with younger kids, the older they get, the faster time flies. It scares me. Honestly it frightens me. Time is this mystical creature, who allures us into thinking it’s timeless. In reality, it slips through our fingers and fools us into thinking we have so much of it on our side. We do and we don’t. It all depends on your strength to hold onto it. As a parent, the most important investment of our time is with our children.
Since my kids were in daycare, I have always thought about the importance of one-on-one time with each of them. Even if I only gave them 15 minutes, they seemed lighter, happier, more connected, and the same went for me. It all started with a cup of decaf. I would pick up (my then three year old son) early from daycare and take him to Caribou Coffee where he would order a small decaf with room for cream. We would then sit and chat before going back to pick up his sister. Lessons were learned and thoughts were exchanged: like you cannot call a man wearing an eyepatch a pirate or ask why someone is so big. I loved the way we would walk out of the coffee shop, hand in hand, hearts full. My eyes tear now, thinking about the time that has passed, as he approaches 13 this summer.
Thirteen. Wow. I used to think that people were old who had teenagers. I am quite happy to say I no longer think that at all. I have not allowed time to put an age on me. But what I have allowed time to do is take away the frequency of those coffee shop moments. Our coffee shop dates turned into Whole Foods lunch dates. Carson and I still have “our spot” where we connect, but the fullness of life doesn’t allow us to get there as much. While my daughter still hangs out with me after school, my son has adopted full-blown boy behavior: he retreats upstairs to do homework and places himself behind closed doors. Life is quieter now. Not a day goes by where I don’t tell him that I miss him. I miss him hanging around the kitchen while I cook, I miss him sitting in the same room as me. He’s here every day, yet I miss him.
But here’s where coffee comes into the picture again. Perhaps I allowed a bad habit to continue (the kid has always loved coffee) and I am now putting myself out there for judgment, but coffee still bonds Carson and I. If he wakes up earlier than me, he heats the water for the french press. And then we have coffee together every morning. It’s our thing. And our kids love when they have “their thing” with each parent. If you are wondering where Addison is in this picture, she is still waking up. Her energy for interaction comes in the evening.
Recently I traveled and brought my daughter with me. I did the same with my son when he was younger. Traveling with one of your children is an amazing experience that gives them your undivided attention. They feel special and it is special. But it doesn’t have to be travel, it can be a simple date, walk, or ten minutes of conversation. It all adds up to a deeper relationship between you and your child.
The benefits of focused one-on-one attention are invaluable:
– They feel truly loved. Time = Love. It’s an undeniable equation.
– We allow ourselves to stop and listen without distractions. How many times has your child walked away while you were on your phone or computer? It happens to all of us. And it affects them. They know when we are not fully present.
– Bonding: as our kids age, it is so important to maintain a close bond. In the preteen and teenage years, having a close relationship with your children is critical. You need to be comfortable talking about every uncomfortable subject. Connecting emotionally is critical, as kids carry so much fear, stress, and anxiety. They want to know that they have a secure relationship with you, where they feel safe to share anything.
– They learn from you: we know our kids are always watching us and listening even when we think they aren’t. When we have their attention one-on-one, we are able to reflect together and think more deeply. They need guidance from us from a calm place, not during the heat of the moment.
Of course there are many more benefits, but I know your time is valuable and I need to let you go. Writing this has reminded me to make more conscious efforts to give my children more of my undivided attention. And when I don’t have time to give it to them, they won’t be as hurt or feel as insecure, because of the time I do give to them. “Later” won’t sting as much. I just snuck in another benefit.
My challenge to you and to myself this summer is to schedule dates or special moments with each of your children. It will deepen your relationship with them while teaching them the critical need for intentional, purposeful face-to-face interactions with others. Technology is teaching them to withdraw and it’s our job to pull them back into the world: and here’s the start of another important topic…