I have 24 hours every day to spend the way I choose. With the hours I have been given, I choose to be present with my kids as much as I am physically able. A wise person shared this truth with me a long time ago: I can be present with my kids or someone else can.
The truth is that, while we value being the strongest influence in our kids' lives, that can’t last forever. Eventually, they start to value what others think and spend more time outside our home than they do with us as parents.
Think about who you want to be the strongest influence in your child’s life. Then look at your calendar to see what things dominate your time. I do this regularly to ensure my priorities are in order. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am choosing to be present every moment that I possibly can. Life is short. My time with my kids is shorter. I don’t want to miss the good stuff.
By being intentionally present with my kids, I have learned a few things. I found out what activities my kids enjoy. I found out what situations frustrate my kids. I found out what makes my kids laugh hysterically, what stresses them out, and what fascinates them.
My wife Carla reminds me that I am not very good at multitasking. (I‘ve been working on multitasking #fail). Instead of being overwhelmed, just focus on one thing on the list at a time and try to knock it out of the park! What I learned about my kids is helpful to me as a parent, but the greatest return on my investment is when I focus on being present with my kids.
Here are a few ways that I make time with my kids a priority:
- Dinner time: I am home for dinner six nights week
- Bed time: I pray and tuck them into bed six nights a week. I use this time to speak life over each one of them individually
- Dinner time: the kids help us prepare dinner and set the table
- Story time: the kids get to choose the books they want to hear anytime I am home with them
- One minute rule: I don't use the phone longer than one minute while I am with them.
- Individual playtime and one-on-one outings: At least once a week I spend time with each child. Some are special outings (like parks or museums) and some are built into the daily rhythms of life (like errands or community service)
- Valuing what’s important to them: I enjoy doing my daughter’s hair the way they request (one ponytail? or two?)
- Imagination station: I nurture imagination by getting down on the floor and playing whatever game they want, however they want. The games are kid created, kid directed, and we play as long as they want.
I have learned to meet them at their level by saying yes as often as possible and let them be as silly as they want as often as possible. To play instead of teach, and model instead of preach.