By Brandon JackelLife is busy.
I presently work over forty hours a week. I maintain a large property and home, while going to school full-time. On top of all of my responsibilities my wife and I have five children, aged seven and younger. It is a challenge to spend quality time together. At times, I work twelve hour shifts. Most days I go to work before my children wake up and my children are in bed before I get home. This presents some challenges when I work several consecutive days in a row.
It wasn’t long ago when I worked four consecutive twelve hour shifts in a row. I hadn’t seen my children in four days! When I finally had a day off, I found myself being busy around the house, getting caught up on chores and projects. My children were ecstatic to see me on my day off, but my mind was easily in task mode. Before I knew it, the day had passed and my children were already getting ready for bed.
When I was going through the bed time routine, my oldest daughter seemed incredibly sad. She expressed how much she missed me and didn’t understand why I had to work so much. She mentioned she couldn’t remember the last time we did something fun together and how much she missed me. She even mentioned how she wished we didn’t move to a larger house because of how much time I had to spend working on projects. My other children expressed similar comments. One of them even said I made promises I didn’t keep because of working so much.
As I thought about my children’s remarks my heart was crushed. I was filled with brokenness. It was really challenging to digest every word my little girls were expressing. They really missed me. For the first time I could clearly see how busy I had become. Why do I work so much? When I am home why do I spend my time on projects instead of with my family? All these questions filled my mind. I let my children down and I didn’t even realize it.
I began to reflect upon the last month and I could remember times when I didn’t engage with my children. I recalled a time when they wanted me to watch a movie with them and I responded, “not now.” I remembered my younger children showing me pictures they had drawn for me and I simply replied, “that’s nice”. I even recalled my oldest child inquiring if she could help me with projects and I replied, “you’re too young”. I then realized that I had neglected to spend quality time with my children and I could see the negative impact it made on me as a parent. I realized that quality time was my children's #1 need, and as their parent I was responsible to meet that need.
Children crave attention and look up to their parents as role-models. They genuinely desire to spend quality time with their parents. One parent can not meet this need - they crave both what Dad and Mom offer, because what they offer is different and unique in comparison. They desire to be encouraged and recognized for their accomplishments. They want to be noticed and included in their parents' lives. When parents give their children the attention they desire, it meets an emotional need within them. When this need is met, children express gratitude and thankfulness. When this need goes unmet, children can become hurt and disappointed; even acting out behaviorally to get what they want.
There are many benefits from parents spending undivided attention and time with their children. Children feel more secure in your love for them. This security gives them courage to experience and explore the world around them. They try new things, and there will be a willingness within them to learn. When parents spend time with their children, children also express their gratitude and love toward their parents. They expound on their feelings of love that they have toward us. There is no greater feeling than for me to hear how much my children love me. And, surprisingly, a child will be more apt to listening and obeying, if they feel secure and loved along the way.
However, if parents don’t spend time with their children, parents can really hurt their children without even recognizing it. Children may begin to feel insecure and afraid. This could even impair their desire to formulate thoughts and explore the world around them. Children can become defiant, having temper tantrums because this need for quality time isn’t being met. Parents should seize the moment and make it their priority to connect with their children. As Rogers (2007) explains, in the Daily Details of Family Life, "filled with seemingly mundane events, we [parents] can choose to generously share our time with our children and capture those cherished moments." As children there are many memories being made, the ones we share with one another make its greatest print in our hearts.
I was able to apply this concept recently on New Year’s Eve. Rather than ushering in the new year with friends, I spent it with my children. We cuddled on the couch watching movies and laid on the floor playing board games. As midnight approached, we were celebrating the moment by listening to music while feasting on snacks. As the countdown began, we eagerly and cheerfully counted down the year entering into a new one.
That evening as I put my children to bed they had huge grins on their faces. Their eyes were full of awe and wonder. They giggled and laughed as we said our prayers. Those moments were precious kissing their foreheads and embracing them with hugs. Each child verbally expressed how much they loved me and how this new year would be the best year ever. In that moment my heart was full of joy. I knew my children knew they were loved, and it all came by spending quality time with them on New Year’s Eve.
In conclusion, I have learned the real art of spending time with children and what that means for them. Their young ages make them like sponges in the world - and its so important that they know they are accepted; they are loved; they have me as their biggest cheerleader. Spending time with them means I'm reassuring them of those things - and creating a safe and non-judgmental environment for them to grow and make mistakes in. I let them know that I am there whenever they need me. How will they know that if I'm not really available? This is something I am learning and practicing. I tithe time to my children, because they need it and they desire it. It's because I love them I give them what they need.