My son had been talking for an hour, at least. He wanted to know why clouds were shaped like cotton balls, why dogs like to lick your face, if the sun really had a pointy crown around its face like the one in his book, and if dragons were real. I was driving and thinking. Not about what he was saying, though. There was a scrolling list running through my mind and I was trying my best to keep up.
- Job duties.
- Home to-do list
- Meeting agenda.
Pretty soon his questions tapered off and he fell asleep as the car hummed along on the expressway. I hadn’t even noticed that he wasn’t talking anymore. It wasn’t until I glanced up to the rearview mirror that I noticed. And that’s when it hit me- while I could really do nothing to avoid the mechanics of my job, I could pay attention to my 7 -year old more.
I wonder- how often do we all do this to our children? How often do we blow past them and assume they understand? Sure, we have to work for a living. That’s a given. Is it getting out of hand though? Is our lack of connection to our children due to working, or doing, too much, or not using our time wisely? Have we overloaded ourselves to the point of crumbling?
I don’t know about you, but instead of making some personal changes, I tend to justify my busyness. Honestly, I think this is something we all do. We assume that our families, particularly our children, get why we are so distracted and absent. If we look closer, however, we may see some assumptions we’ve made about our children that really aren’t true, or a bit inaccurate…
4 Big Assumptions We Make About Our Children:
- “They’re resilient.” We get into this mode of thinking that our children can take it, that they’re strong, and they know their mom and dad have lots of work to finish. We convince ourselves that they understand why we can’t play catch or a game of cards right now. Wrong. While they may understand that we have to work for a living, they do not understand why we are constantly distracted, running late for their baseball game, or grouchy after a long day. Their little minds cannot see past one small pixel of the bigger picture of life. Don’t assume they can see the whole thing. Your adult problems are a galaxy away from their childish problems. When you and I are absent a lot, distracted often, and constantly too busy for them, it weakens their self-confidence and dampens their spirit.
- “They know how much I love them.” Love is shared through words, but it’s brought to life by action. Keep that at the forefront of your thinking. I’m saying that for me as well as anyone else reading. For years I thought my kids knew I loved them. And, they did, because their hearts were tuned to me as their father. But they needed to experience my love for them in action, and not just in word. When we get busy, we start throwing the “I love you’s” out a lot. But the amount of love-in-action decreases significantly and our children notice that because they are wired to love.
- “They understand how busy I am.” Much like #1, we justify our busy schedules and our decrease in involvement in their lives by the busyness factor. “Well, I’m just in a busy season right now. That will change soon. I just need to get through ________, and I’ll spend time with my kids!” The problem with a statement like this (and you can fill in the blank), is that once we get through that particular “I just need to,” there’s another “I just need to,” and another after that. It never ends. And it won’t. That’s life. We have to be intentional here with our children. It requires us to intentionally stop and spend time with them, on a regular, consistent basis. Waiting until the “I just need to” ends won’t cut it.
- “They’re waiting for quality time with me.” Have you ever said this statement to yourself when you’re busy at work- “I just need to work really hard until vacation and then I’ll spend quality time with my family!”? I have. In fact, as I’ve been preparing to launch a new book and video series I’ve been extremely busy. So much so that I have looked at our family vacation in a few weeks and said that statement to myself. The problem with thinking this way, or circling a date in the future to “make it to,” is that we are neglecting the smaller, seemingly less-significant times with our children in the meantime. Instead of pinpointing a big vacation date down the road, or a holiday weekend, as your time to spend quality time with your children, take the opportunity you have in the in-between to spend time with them. These times are smaller but more frequent. If you do this in quantity, it could become quality. Fact is, your children aren’t eagerly awaiting the big family vacation to the beach in a month, as the time they get to spend with you, as much as they’re wondering where you are every evening before bedtime.
Now that your breath has been knocked out and you’re feeling like a failure, let me encourage you with this:
While your children may not be as resilient as you thought they were, and need you more than you realized, they are very forgiving. In fact, just the other night, I made a mistake with my youngest son and I apologized (almost in tears) to him. He said, in his little mouse voice, “It’s okay daddy…I forgive you!” He meant it too. The next morning he came down from his room and climbed up into my lap like he always does.
Your children are just as forgiving. They will forgive you for being absent and not paying attention to them, But, because they are so forgiving, that means you and I have to work at putting them first. It starts today! Are you ready to make some big changes?
Have you struggled with the busyness factor lately? How are you working through it?
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