The four boy tuck-in routine can be exhausting. Our four-year old is the most challenging of any of our kids at bedtime, and by the time he is down, I’m usually on my last nerve, or ready to collapse.
When we finally get the little guy down, there are still three more boys to read to (on a good night,) say prayers with, and get into their bed. By the time I get to my oldest, it is usually an abbreviated tuck-in. He doesn’t need much. He reads to himself. Finishes school work. One hug and kiss is plenty on a good night. He’s easy.
So that one night not too long ago, when I said goodnight and I love you and was just about to hurry out to tackle the next thing on my nightly to-do list, I’m not sure what made me PAUSE.
But I did.
And I just sat there and was quiet for maybe ten seconds. I looked at my son, relaxed, and with no agenda. I expected nothing, but instead just hung out there with him for a few seconds.
Something about that unhurried moment seemed to open a door, and my son spoke up.
And I happened to be there in a moment when he was ready to talk.
It wasn’t a shocking confession, or any really big issue. He simply talked about something that was bothering him. Something that wouldn’t just “come up” in the middle of the day. This kid is really hard on himself. He works things out quietly, and doesn’t need to talk about little issues. I suppose I have seen this as not only a great quality, but one that simplifies my parenting requirements. And maybe one I’ve taken for granted…
On that particular day, I don’t think he needed me to share wise counsel or really to say anything at all.
He simply decided to let me in on things.
And that moment pierced my heart a little bit.
It made me ask WHAT have I been missing. These little moments…they are treasures. A peek into the heart of my son. A chance to know what he ponders. What bothers him. How I might pray for him.
Yet I am so busy, with the daily tasks, and the managing of the family, and the disciplining of the younger ones…that I am afraid I have rushed past the one that might just need a listening ear the most.
Obviously we are all human. We can only do so much in a day. If we are blessed to have one independent kid who is self directed and doesn’t require a whole lot of special attention, it’s a blessing.
However, the brief moment with my son that night, followed by a few more intentional moments since then, have taught me that I don’t want to miss them any more.
I don’t want to miss his heart.
His creative ideas and interesting perspectives.
So, I’m learning to slow down. To pause intentionally. When I greet him in the morning, I remind myself to stop. To look into his eyes as I ask “How are you?” And mean it. When he gets home after surfing, or a youth group event, to actually stop what I’m doing and ask “How did it go?” And yes, at bedtime…I am trying to cut down a little on the time I spend battling my four-year old, and giving a little more time to the teenagers.
Of course all of the kids need this one on one time. The second-born is dying for a little quiet focus. And the ten-year-old…Oh a listening ear means the world to that one. He is surrounded by noise on all sides. But teens–you can’t always choose when they will talk. So, you kind of have to be ready for it when the time is right.
Sometimes an open door is found by asking questions. Connecting might happen in the car when I turn my music low, and my blue-tooth off. We can connect over cereal in the morning, or while sitting at the beach. An open door may deliver pure silence, and sometimes that is just fine. I think they need to know that we can handle a little quiet, too.
When we are intentionally available to our kids, we say:
“You are valuable.”
“I am interested in you.”
“No one else matters more right now.”
“I’m not just here to speak at you.”
Sometimes a quiet pause is the best “I love you” that we can give.
Have you found the best way to connect with your kids? Does communication come easily, or is this a challenging area for you?
Oftentimes, finding an open door doesn’t require a whole lot of time or planning.
It’s just a matter of being intentionally available.
I’d love to hear from you in comments!