It’s mid-morning and all four children are playing together – the kind of playing you just want to leave alone because you don’t see it often enough.
All too often I'm fighting for my time while children are demanding it. Most mornings, when children are still sleeping, I wake up and give myself some nourishment with quiet time, prayer and devotion. And then I get started on a project, such as, writing, photo editing, or digital scrap booking, and I simply don’t want to stop when the first child wakes up. I will actually cringe at the sound of a waking child I shamefully admit, "Not yet, I'm not ready!" I beg quietly. Sometimes, I admittedly attend to the basic needs of the children all the while stealing time away to continue the project I am working on throughout the day. In this case, my children are not my first priority and as a result, before too long, I have needy, whiny, nagging chaos.
But this morning I closed everything in enough time to prepare for waking children. I was fully present to each one; we went on a morning walk around the neighborhood and home again for a snack. And then they disappeared. Now because of the age difference (7 to 1), I knew it wouldn't be too long before I needed to rescue one, yet none-the-less this just re-enforced a key to parenting I've had in my pocket and if I choose to use it, it works.
That key is labeled nourishment.
Recently, my husband gave me a day for myself. It was a nice break! When I returned, everyone was content. My husband said the kids did great – and that we would be having company over for dinner.
My attention went quickly from hello, to scoping out a messy house, to unloading bags, to dinner preparation, and then to our company – and I pushed my children off the rest of the evening.
Need I mention, they were off the wall loud, whiny, needy…you name it! My husband commented, at one point, on their behavior. I thought for a moment then concluded, "Our children are simply reflecting our parenting tonight."
When I see behavioral issues in my children, much of the time, I need to take a good look at myself and ask, “Have I attended to their needs properly?”
We don't give birth to crazy, misbehaved children. We have children who simply need our love and attention, whether it is uplifting or disciplinary, to feel nourished. When we don't give it to them, they cry out for it by acting out, nagging, whining, and arguing.
I think sometimes we forget that because we feel entitled to our adult time or simply our time.
But, here is what I have learned over the years:
When we start our day, event, whatever; when we intentionally attend to our children first, they will give us hours. We don't have to fight for our time when they feel loved and attended to. I am amazed how they will play together, color, or work contently on a project once I have taken the time for our morning routine and they have fully and presently been attended to.
Depending on the age and personality, some will need filling more often than others, but none-the-less, they need nourishment for their day just as we need nourishment for ours. And for us, it means being fully present, being in-tune, and sacrificing our time to give them our time.
Monte Swan, author of Romancing Your Child’s Heart says,
“A child’s heart is like a garden. The soil needs to be cultivated, and the timing must be right. Fertile soil takes time to develop – to be ready to receive seed. And then, as love takes root, it must be protected and nurtured.
Too often we rush in, caught up in the busyness and complexity of life, expecting our children to follow the timetable of our particular agenda. It’s like planting seeds out of season in soil that’s untilled and not fertile. Whether we like it or not, there’s a window of opportunity for romance that’s open for a specific time – and then it closes.”Next to our relationship with God and our spouse, our children are our first priority and we have a responsibility to their Maker to attend to them like they matter – more than our friends, our hobbies, our careers, our opportunities; they matter.
Just as when we eat a good breakfast, we have fuel that gives us energy throughout the morning. If we skip a meal, we are depleted and cranky. In the same way we need to find ways to fill our children up. And with that fuel, they will take off, nourished and full of healthy energy, rather than depleting ours.
Is there anything in your life causing you to steal time away from giving your child/children the proper nourishment they need? How will you be intentional about giving them nourishment now that summer is turning into fall and school is starting and schedules changing?
My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make my bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball. My legs are short; please slow down so I can keep up with you.
My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; please let me explore safely. Don’t restrict me unnecessarily.
Housework will always be there. I’m only little for a short time-please take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.
My feelings are tender; please be sensitive to my needs. Don’t nag me all day long…treat me as you would like to be treated.
I am a special gift from God; please treasure me as God intended you to do, by holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner.
I need your encouragement to grow. Please go easy on the criticism; remember you can criticize the things I do without criticizing me.
Please give me the freedom to make decisions concerning myself. Permit me to fail, so that I can learn from my mistakes. Then someday I’ll be prepared to make the kind of decisions life requires of me.
Please don’t do things over for me. Somehow that makes me feel that my efforts didn’t quite measure up to your expectations. I know it’s hard, but please don’t try to compare me with my brother or my sister.
Please don’t be afraid to leave for a weekend together. Kids need vacations from parents, just as parents need vacations from kids. Besides, it’s a great way to show us kids that your marriage is very special.