Today was my day off and I had a choice to make - I could go to IKEA and shop for lamps with my adult daughter or I could finish a training on trauma and write a blog. Hmmmm, I am sure you think I stayed home and wrote a blog since you are reading today’s writings but actually I went to IKEA. Why, you may ask, with so many important things to complete and so little time to complete it? Because I always have something that needs to get done. I did when my kids were little and now that they are adults I still have things that need to be done. The only difference is my kids are no longer little.
About eight years ago I had to make a choice. I had things to do for my sons High School and I had a lecture to attend that night with a friend. School got out and my son came to find me working with the other mothers on our so important school project. From the look on his face I knew it was a really bad day for him. So I asked and he replied in High School boy form “It sucked.” Right there on the spot I asked him to dinner and a movie just the two of us. He knew I had prior plans but he said yes and went to get his back pack. I called and canceled with my friend and explained to the shocked mother’s around me, “You only get one chance with your teenager, and I am not missing mine.”
I look around me today and I see a society connected to their work, to their electronics, to their stuff. Where we put our time and energy is where we put our values. I look back on my children’s childhoods and remember a lot of laughter, pain, fighting, giggling, playing, learning, loving, and so much more. I remember their first step, their first word, their first day of school, their first play, their first bike ride, their first swim, their first date, their first heart break, their first time driving (I found out how many details of driving I just do naturally- which need to be explained to your 15 year old BEFORE they try it). I remember the important and the unimportant days of their lives because I was there with them to experience it. And I still have a regret that the years did not last longer, they were over too quickly.
We as humans are created to connect with each other. To meet mind to mind; to connect heart to heart; to feel valued by others. We do this by being together focusing on each other. It is such a simple task that makes such an important impact on our children. The meeting of the minds actually improves neurological function and health. As a newborn it creates attachment, as a teenager it creates cortex connections. As a human it teaches what relationship is meant to be and how to manage them as an adult. Our kids learn so much from us and through us. The health of the culture relies on the health of the parents and adults connecting to our kids. There really is a reason to try and connect with each other. But as a parent it is important to remember the present moment counts in so many ways and there are no “do overs” when it comes to raising our kids.
To connect with your kids every day begin by listening to them. I am amazed at the wisdom that comes out of our kids. The message is often lost due to the delivery but if we really listen to them we will begin to learn. When you listen to them look them in the eye and respond to what is being said. Strive to understand their perspective, their emotions, their worlds. Next acknowledge them, give them encouragement, direction, or affirmation. This leads to a sense of self in a child, a feeling that they have a place in the world and can impact it in ways both big and small. Spend time enjoying them. Here we have no mission, no list of goals, no agenda. It is here that we just have fun playing, reading, telling stories, talking about the past, "hanging out". There is no expectation or measurement of success and failure. To connect every day we need to turn off the electronics, to look each other in the eye- it may be as simple as sharing dinner together, not in the car but at an actual table. Finally reach out and touch your kids. Unfortunately the majority of kids today are only touched by their parents with a purpose such as assisting in dressing, picking up and moving, or getting in and out of the car. In reality kids never get too big to snuggle with, to hug, to kiss, to tickle - the packaging changes not the needs. And if your teenager is not getting enough touch from you they may find it in other ways with their peers.
So try today to live by a new motto - one that involves connecting with our kids.