Connecting with our kids: What does it mean these days?
“I don’t have time to dawdle in the morning. I have important obligations.”
This was the answer given by a father whose daughter asked if they could spend time together before school in the morning. Dad is divorced and remarried and his kids start school at different times. The hour between the two drop-off times is the “dawdling” time in question here. His 12 year old daughter thought it would be “fun and cool” to have an hour together with her dad at Starbucks, just the two of them. “I want some alone time with my dad.” Dad, however, feels that this would be wasted time, “dawdling time”, not really connecting with his daughter so what’s the point? This begs the question, what does connection look like in the day and age of “too busy”, “too distracted”, “too stressed”?
How do kids define connection?
I recently happened upon this quote: Children spell love T-I-M-E. I’ll admit it gave me pause. Do they really? I imagined the other ways in which we show them (the other “love languages”, if you will) and then thought about what kids actually tell me when I work with them and realized that in reality, time does equal connection which makes all of us feel loved. This doesn’t mean affirming words, tokens of affection and back rubs don’t make our kids feel loved but, absent time together, do these other forms of expressing love sufficiently compensate? From where I sit, I would have to say no. I think the challenge becomes figuring out how to find the time and accepting what counts as “quality enough” time with our kids.
First of all, I don’t know that working parents who are spinning 192 plates are ever really going to happen upon the time (“Oh, goody, here is some extra time!”) so we have to make the time. Carve it out intentionally. Second, I can’t help but wonder if we have a vision of what quality time looks like with our kids and anything short of that (sitting in a Starbucks on devices, for example) feels like we are only half-heartedly trying to connect so we figure why even bother? The reason to bother is that connection can happen in bite-sized chunks. We can be present for a few minutes here and there and for many kids, just knowing we are next to them, able to reach out our hand between emails and touch theirs or land a quick kiss on their foreheads…well, it matters a lot. These moments of connection build like a bank account and strengthen our bond. Would having the time, energy and bandwidth to play Connect Four or tell jokes for an hour be even better bonding experiences? Maybe. But in the world of never enough time, we can work with what we have and recognize that our kids do not see any time with us as a waste, as “dawdling”, as what’s the point…
- Time with your child is never a waste. NEVER. We need to carve out the moments we can and recognize that connection might look different than we’d expected.
- The world is a busy, stressed out place-it’s okay to redefine time together and not feel guilty about it.
- Time together seems to be the single biggest contributor to connection for kids and parents. Of course there are a number of love languages/ways to show love but I’ve heard over the past 20 years from kids that nothing trumps time with a parent to feel close and connected.