'Not Now' Parenting
Where have I been?! It's been quite a while since my last post (not happy about that) but there's been a lot going on. One thing I will say is that we're working on something pretty special behind the scenes and we can't wait to tell you more about it. We've still got a ways to go, but we think you're going to love it (now that's just not fair, is it? lol). Stay tuned.
Anyway, let's start off with a few questions. Are you easily irritated by your children asking for some time with you? More often than not, do you find yourself saying 'no' when your children want to show you something or do something with you? How about this one: It's Wednesday – how many of you have yet to spend 30 minutes of quality time with your children? Ouch. Now obviously there is no way to conduct a show of hands here so you can answer these questions in complete privacy, but if you silently said, "That's me," to any of the above, this post is for you.
Actually, even if you didn't raise your hand in the comfort of your (wherever you may be reading this, and it better not be the driver's seat of your car! ;) this post is for you. Look, I get it – most parents are on a mission. We've got things to do, places to go, and people to see; and we'd like to do things, go places, and see people so we can get on with our 'me' time. This is why we often employ those two terribly deflating words in order to stave off the inconvenience of having children -– "Not now."
Wait a minute – did I just say 'the inconvenience of having children'? You probably grimaced at that; as well you should. No one would come right out and say such a thing, but to be blunt, if our children hear us consistently say, "Not now," in response to their requests for our time, we might as well tell them to their face, "You're an inconvenience." Ouch.
I know, I know. If we said yes to every little entreaty to "Read me a book," or, "Come outside and play," or, "Mom, Mom – watch this," there'd be no time left in the day. You're right. But I'm not suggesting that you say 'yes' every time. Just that you say 'yes' more often. Maybe even more often than you say, 'not now'.
Yes, of course you have a house to clean. Yes, of course the bills won't pay themselves. Yes, of course money doesn't grow on trees. Yes, of course you have hungry mouths to feed. Guess what? You've still got time to give to your children. Our problem is that we've told ourselves we'll spend time with them once everything is done; but let me tell you something you already know: everything is never done. The secret to spending more time with your children is not clearing your plate of responsibility; it's arranging those responsibilities to ensure they don't monopolize your time.
The fearful thing about constantly saying 'not now' to your children isn't that it will create bad memories for them; it's that it won't create any memories at all. If your days are mostly filled with running here and there, paying bills, cooking, cleaning, etc., with little to no dedicated time spent with your children, they'll likely look back and just remember . . . nothing.
Maybe you're one who, instead of saying 'no' says "Let's put in a video." Nothing wrong with that, unless you do that most every day. Pretty soon your children are asking for one thing and one thing only – to watch a video, both because they're enamored with it and because they know it's the only thing you consistently say yes to. Ouch.
Again, I'm very aware that we cannot possibly say 'yes' to every request for time that our children present to us. We have to work and clean and cook and it's terribly difficult to do those things efficiently with children underfoot. But focusing almost exclusively on providing for your children is like being only half a parent. Sure, your children need a provider, but they also need a companion and there's no one more uniquely qualified to be either of these things than you.
Don't let this happen to you. Don't just be a provider. Your children are smart. If their pleas for time with you are constantly being rebuffed with a 'Not now,' or some other distraction to "get them out of your hair" they'll quickly learn that Mom or Dad have 'better things to do' and before long the well of asking for a bit of your time might quickly dry up, and that would be a terrible shame.
So dear parent, you keep right on providing. Continue tending to the house your children live in, giving them good food to eat, and putting comfortable clothes on their back; but consider your work half done. Your children need you as much as they need provisions. After the dust settles from the demands of everyday living, there stands your child, sheltered, fed, and clothed with a book in his hands and a perfectly reasonable request on his lips: "Could you read to me?"