WHEN OUR BUSY LIFE DISCONNECTS US FROM OUR KIDS
There are three children in our family, and they are each at various stages in life. I often find myself clumping them all together as far as what they need and how to help them thrive. But, the fact of the matter is that what is needed by my 18-month-old is vastly different from that of my 3-year-old and even more so our 5-year-old. Two nights ago, I looked over at our kids cleaning up the living room, about to get ready for bedtime, and our oldest, Mehana, was so quiet, so obedient, and so diligent in the task before her. She has always been an obedient girl, but her way of being that night hit me differently. I kept looking and kept trying to pinpoint what it was that made me stop and observe. She had grown not in size, but demeanor. And sometimes those spurts get missed in the daily ins and outs, in the clumping. And one day you just notice. So, I leaned into Steve and I said, “I miss her.”
I don’t want to miss her. I want to be in it with her. I want to notice, and see and listen to her sweet words. I want to sit and color and pretend and run next to her. I clumped all the kids needs into a single one, and then that change, those moments in this season, passed me by. She grew, she changed, and I missed that one. But I know in that moment as I looked across the room at her that I could choose one of two things: the wallowing in it or the grace. I chose grace. Here is what grace looked like for us as her parents:
Time. We made some time. I took her on a short walk to the woods that evening, or a “hike” as she calls it. It wasn’t long, but it was filling. She had no idea how I was feeling. She had no idea the miss I felt, but what she did know in that moment is that I was choosing her. I was reaching and investing in her. I was giving to her heart in a way that she could draw from in her later years when more and more changes will eventually come. In the days that followed I wondered if Steve would find a way in, too. He missed it, too. And a few days later, he took her to the side, asked her if she had any plans that night and if she wanted to go out on a date with him. If only I could’ve bottled up that hug and replayed it forever. Her eyes were squeezed shut, her arms were wrapped around his neck, and her smile broke me. It revealed the need, the desire of her heart to connect.
She ran straight upstairs, asked me to get down her favorite blue denim dress, and said, “can I wear makeup, too?” All the resistance within me (because I am so not a makeup person) was met with “sure.” I couldn’t muster up a “yes,” but “sure” was good enough for her. She was all ready and as I was saying goodbye, I knelt down and looked deep in to her hazel eyes, and I said: “Have a great time with your daddy. He loves you, and he is a good man. He will treat you with love and respect and honor and you are blessed to be his daughter.” And she looked up at her tall, strong daddy and where there was once a miss it was suddenly covered by grace. The pomp and circumstance of the dress and the shoes and all that was cute and sweet, or course, but it really wasn’t about that. It was about the time we gave to her, the love we sowed, the branch we held out to her. We chose to step into the moment of sadness that there was a disconnect, a miss between us and her, and stepped into it and grace covered where we just didn’t cut it.
Now, I wasn’t there at the restaurant, but I was there when they came home. There was joy and refreshment in her eyes, a sparkle and a tenderness that is who she is. It was like a light that was flickering only days before now burned bright and was shining for all to see, shedding light to all who looked and interacted with her. Her love tank was filled, and effectively, so was ours.
When there is a miss, a busy season, a tragedy has hit, a new job is starting, the baby isn’t sleeping through the night, someone is sick, or anything, sometimes our kids feel the clumping. They may not notice it, and they may not even say anything about what is missing for them. But, often it’s happening right before us, and we get to choose to push on in our ‘woe is me and how bad of a parent I am’ conversations or we get to choose the grace offered to us, the grace that covers where we lack. There is no right way, there is no right answer or process. It is not about what you do to reconnect, it’s about your heart to be in relationship with whoever the disconnect is with. The misses will happen, that is part of life and parenting and humanity, but it’s how we show up after they are realized that makes the biggest difference.
When you feel disconnected, what do you, as a parent do to reconnect, to invest in your kids? Is there a tradition in your family that is a go to when things are feeling off? Will you comment below some ideas? There are so many good parents, so many of you that love so well, and it is so encouraging to read your thoughts on things that we all experience and go through! Please comment below or share on your social media pages to encourage other moms or dads with this and some of your own ideas!