We spent all of Saturday hanging out with the kids (and mostly, at home). We played Monopoly Philippine Edition, went swimming, drove around in the car to run errands, and put out a big mattress in the living room so we could all lay on it and chill. One of our sons said, “This is the best day ever!”
Edric gave me a look and said under his breath, “Did you hear that?” We smiled at each other. We know that our kids say this when their emotional tanks are full. And their emotional tanks are full when we have uninterrupted, lengthy amounts of time together as a family doing the things that they enjoy.
What blesses my heart is that the kids treasure togetherness more than fancy toys, gadgets, their friends, or going out. (Edan, our second son, wanted to play Plants vs. Zombies on my IPad but he forgot about it while playing Monopoly.) Someday when they are older, togetherness may not be their number one priority, but I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and I can have these moments with them now.
While our children are still young, we are the most important people in their lives. Our approbation, attention, and time matter to them. They actually want to be with us. They listen to what we have to say. They want to please us and make us happy. But I know that this window of opportunity will not be open forever.
Two weeks ago when Edric spoke before a group of parents he said, “I have one life to live and only one shot at parenting. I want to make it count.” Edric and I did not always see parenting from this perspective. But as we attended family seminars, received mentoring from spiritual leaders, studied God’s word, and homeschooled our kids, we realized more and more that no one can take our place in the lives of our children.
There is no substitute for the relationship between parent and child. There is no monetary equivalent. There is no greater influence for the formation of values, character, and understanding of faith. When parents are not available, replacements will not satisfy the deep longing children have for parental acceptance and security. When parents do not guide and lead in the home, children are without a moral compass.
Yes, God can heal and redeem the shortcomings of parents, but it is not easy to survive the consequences of absentee parenting. When I say “absentee” I don’t just mean physically away. Many parents can be present at home but emotionally absent — watching TV, surfing the Net, checking Facebook, working, or preoccupied with hobbies and personal interests. It’s called disengaged parenting. “I’m here but not really.” Are you guilty of this? Well, I am at times.
But, I don’t want to be that kind of parent. So I choose to switch from disengaged mode to engaged mode with my kids. Engaged mode is about interacting, communicating, socializing, laughing, having fun with my kids. Honestly, I don’t like Monopoly or swimming! (Edric and the kids know this. They know that I prefer to watch a movie, write, or read.) Monopoly and swimming are NOT favorite past times of mine. But I still spend two hours rolling dice and investing in imaginary properties to build pretend hotels on. I still wade around in the kiddie pool, standing on my knees while I hold on to my little kids.
Why? Because these activities matter to my children. They like playing Monopoly and other board games. They like swimming, biking, walking outside, painting, being read to, etc…For them, the draw is togetherness. I have often heard my kids blurt out this statement, “Yeah! We are all together! It’s family time!”
“Togetherness” is a noun that means “a feeling of closeness or affection from being united with other people.” (The Free Dictionary) It is the magic that happens when Edric and I participate in the activities our children enjoy (versus forcing them to do only what we like to do). It is what keeps the doorway to our children’s hearts open. And it is what turns ordinary days into the best days ever! I hope all of us can have more of these days!