Do you ever confuse being in the same room with being engaged with your children? Last Christmas my two older children got iPod Touches from Santa and Jeff and I got iPhones. It was SO much fun and we all had the world at our fingertips as we played and played with our new toys and found neat apps, games like Words with Friends (don’t get me started on that addiction), and texted our friends. Before you knew it, two hours had clicked away and no one had talked to each other and our two year-old was completely forgotten about as she disappeared in the playroom with a bag of candy and her new baby doll!
I never intended on spending half of Christmas Day by myself consumed in my own world, but it happened and sadly I’ve been guilty of this on several occasions since that day. Sometimes I have to watch that I don’t abandon my family without intending to. I know I’m completely absent when my now three year-old is trying to tell me something as I’m sitting at the computer and she literally takes her hand and grabs my face to turn it toward her!
Life is exhausting and we all need “down time,” as people and especially as parents. My husband gets credit for coining the phrase “Must be Present to Win” as our code phrase for “we need to stop doing whatever we are doing and be present and engaged with the kids NOW.”
It is healthy to have blocks of time allocated to be online, do emails, send texts or just read a magazine. And quite frankly, it’s healthy for our children to learn to be by themselves and have their own down time or quiet time. As parents, we shouldn’t feel guilty about not being engaged with them every waking second or always having something for them to do. It’s striking the right balance and being “present” and “intentional” when you are with them that really matters.
In this day and age, our life is moving at warp speed and not being able to multitask is no longer an option. The problem is, we aren’t very good at it as we live out our days only half engaged at best. Our children deserve much more — they deserve our full attention and very best! There are so many things we can give them, but the value of our time spent pouring into their little lives is irreplaceable.
Here are some simple things you can do to avoid being absent as a parent:
- Look and Focus. Look at your child when they are talking. Turn and look them full in the face. Get down on their level, and really listen to what they have to say as you smile and focus on them. Be in the moment!
- Put your phone and computer away so you are not constantly checking it. Find designated times to check email/Facebook throughout the day. Your senders will also pick up on this and their expectations of you being available at their beck and call will go down. If they really need you…they will track you down!
- Find another activity besides TV to do as a family. When you watch TV, you are in the same room but no one is talking.
- Leave extra work, reading or computer time for a block of time after the kids go to bed.
We only get one chance in this life to do it right, so be intentional! As human beings, a rich and fulfilling life comes from relationships and God has created us to be relational. By valuing and pouring into our relationships intentionally they will grow deeper and flourish. God has entrusted us with these precious children to train and invest in. Let’s choose to be present so we all WIN!!!
Tracie Nolde lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband, Jeff, and their three children, Camden, Chase and Kennedy.