I am noticing that our parenting priorities can be somewhat ‘lop-sided.’ We do seem to be spending decreasing amounts of time with our children. And even when we finally do, it’s not always real quality time.
I am not insensitive or un-empathetic towards the many constraints we face as parents; and the ‘need’ for finances to help us to stay afloat.
I will say though, in our quest to “make ends meet”; that it is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich without adding sorrow! (Proverbs 10:22). If we truly live according to what we can afford – which for many of us means ‘downsizing’; this will or can significantly eradicate or at least reduce the prevalence of our absences as parents.
One common problem I see these days is not a “lack of time”, but rather parents not being intentional enough in factoring their children into their day to day plans. In most cases, we can be excused for thinking that spending hours focusing on enjoyable activities like: watching t.v., eating out, going to the movies, mall, etc is spending quality time! I don’t want to knock that in any way, it’s great to be able to have fun with our children. But spending quality time goes beyond this.
I am learning that it must also benefit the ‘key need’ in their lives and not just help to forget it momentarily. We must be mindful that it is not so much of the quantity of time spent in having fun, but the quality of that time matters most!
Let’s be real, we can become so overwhelmed with life’s fast pace, coupled with several things going on at once. Our lives are often filled with hurriedness, worries and activities that push our children down our priority list! We want to finish doing everything and then have time for them. I have discovered that we are often riddled with guilt when we finally settle down to spending time with our children. We frequently and erroneously feel that the ‘let’s have fun’ approach ‘will do the trick!’ Catching fun will not solve what intentional regular parental talks will do!
Our children often do appreciate this about us, but the question remains: have we really been able to communicate with their hearts and souls? Do they look at us and smile and whisper “I love you dad/mum” or “thanks for such a good time mum/dad”, but with deep issues lurking in their hearts, which they don’t share because they feel this would ‘break us’ should we find out? Are they burdened with things they would have loved to share, but never had the opportunity to do so because of our busy lifestyles? Sometimes they are out with us treasuring and enjoying ‘the moment’ but equally knowing that sharing their issue could ruin the day for us. Their issues are vast, ranging from bullying, abuse, friends (boy or girl), drugs, church, school grades, or even bad touches from people… the list goes on! If they feel they cannot discuss these with us, or if they anticipate an angry response, they may just smile through the ‘fun time’ with distress and a heavy heart! And we (bless us), would feel so good, ticking the ‘quality time’ box in our book of parental accomplishments
I was awoken to this reality when I had a big argument with my son a while back! It was an eye opener for me, something I learnt a lot from.
We need to have deep and meaningful conversations about everything, making sacrifice to be there, talking through their days (and paying attention). Asking those crucial questions, taking every advantage to sit and ask about school, their friends, teachers, opinions about issues we know are affecting children in our society and creating an avenue for them to be willing to raise their fears, anxieties or uncertainty with us! They need air time, not to be invaded with our preaching about a messy room or tasks we want them to complete! Fellow mums and dads we must get used to sitting still and listening too!
If we have not engaged with our children from the beginning, such frank discussions may be a bit uncomfortable for them. I am learning that when our children withhold information from us, it is not always because they don’t trust us per se; but they fear our inability to handle things based on their past experiences with us.
Beloved parents if we are not pouring into them and shaping them, other forces are: Internet, social media, other children, ‘Miss & Sirs’ at school will! You know why? These are the ones that our children spend most time with on a daily basis.
We need to take control of our time and plan our family into our daily, monthly & yearly calendar. Nothing must take priority over this! Spending quality time requires three things from us:
1. Being intentional,
2. Paying attention
3. Being interested.
Please note I did not use the phrase “showing interest.” Our children know the difference!
These precious children are first and foremost gifts from God! Not just gifts, but ‘perfect’ gifts! What do we do with such gifts? We treasure them. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights…”. We are favoured stewards that God has entrusted with their future.
They are great arrows of God intended to hit their targets! (Psalms 127:3-5). As stewards entrusted with this potent arrows, we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)“.
We cannot train (disciple) if we are hardly there for them can we?
Perhaps we have failed them at the initial stages, it is never too late to develop that relationship again. Help is always at hand. It may take a while, but we must keep at it, it is worth it! With prayer and God on our side, we can begin to mould our children according to God’s blue print again.