My oldest daughter is hitting a new stage in life. And it’s uncomfortable- like an itchy tag in your shirt that you can’t quite scratch.
Here’s a day from her typical summer life: In the morning she hired herself out as a mother’s helper, spending a few hours tending the neighbor’s children. She slammed home for a quick hour, eating and finishing up her music practice. Then she spent the afternoon swimming with friends. Again a quick dinner, and then out to play night games until 10 o’clock, collapsing into bed exhausted, but content.
But I wasn’t content.
I stood in her doorway that night mourning the end of an era in her life. Where was that little girl who told me everything about her day?!? The one who brought me muddy worms and snuggled up to read books? The one who thought I was cool and wanted to play all day together?
She was long gone. This new preteen, busy, independent girl was rocking my world.
I slept troubled that night, unable to pinpoint exactly what was bothering me, until I asked myself: what was I missing about that four-year-old? It wasn’t the potty accidents. Nope. It wasn’t the mud or the chubby cheeks. No and no.
And then it hit me. *Light bulb moment* It was the connection. It was the time we spent talking, looking at each other. Doing fun things together. Talking about what was on our mind. That’s what was missing! We weren’t connecting anymore.
I understand that naturally, independence creates distance. But we still need each other. We still need to connect, converse and see each other. I want a front row seat to watch her take on the world and create something marvelous with her life. I am going to be a part of it.
So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I was going to carve out moments in our day to connect. And carve away I did. As I looked through her daily schedule, I realized that mealtimes were our golden ticket. Those were the times that she came home to regroup and refuel before storming out again.
I began making these moments count.
Every mealtime, I began putting down my work, my laundry, my to-do lists and leaving my phone in the other room. I focused solely on her. I sat down right beside her, looked in her eyes and asked questions. And then just listened.
Out came her thoughts, tumbling like rain from heaven. The connection, the time together, the closeness, it all came back. And it brought, not mourning for the end of childhood, but excitement for this new, growing, independent phase.
How do you create moments to connect with your kids?
I’m convinced it is the simple moments built into our everyday that build strong relationships. And it takes focused effort. And… it’s different for each child. My son won’t talk about his feelings, but he’ll play LEGOs with me for hours, so I capitalize on that. My baby just wants snuggles. Carve, carve, carve. Those moments are far more important than any phone call, answered email, or clean bathroom could ever top.
Take time today to find ways to carve out time to connect with your kids. Make it simple, but effective. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Give them a longer than usual hug, whispering simple loving words into their ear
- Play a few minutes with them in a quiet corner of your home
- Leave them a note on their pillow
- Get down on their level and look into their eyes while they’re talking
- Put down your phone during meal and snack times. Really see what’s happening around you
- Snuggle up and read a book
- Ask- “How are you feeling today?”
- Tell them something specific that you are proud of
- Start a journal to pass back and forth between you and her
- Jump into their hobby and help them. Relearn how to throw a softball, draw a dog or play the piano
- Be present and really hear and see them
- Most importantly, pray. Ask heaven how to guide and connect with your child. Ideas will come flowing
Be brave. Carve out that time. You won’t regret it.