A few weeks ago, I realized my quality time with my kids has been looking something like this:
- “Go play in the basement while I make dinner.”
- “Eat your dinner!” “Eat it!” “Eat the rest!”
- “You guys want to watch a show?”
- “Okay, bedtime. Quick, pick a short story. Now sleep.”
It would be easy to blame first trimester symptoms of exhaustion, but sadly, I think the habit started before I started to feel so worn out, when the temperatures started to drop and the sun started to set earlier.
I had been wondering why Lydia was so whiny lately. I think the breakthrough came for me one Friday (the day that I have off each week to spend time with the kids) when, at 5 p.m., Lydia asked me to play a game with her, and I said that I had to start dinner. She erupted into tears, saying, “You haven’t done anything with me all day long!” It was true: I had spent the day telling her and Elvis to go find something else to do while I put away clothes, cooked food, changed loads of laundry, folded clothes, etc. Way back when I had decided to take Fridays off, I thought, “Yes! A whole extra day to spend with my kids,” and here I was trying to get all of these chores checked off my list while they tried to entertain themselves. And you know how well that works– best friends one second, mortal enemies the next.
Of course I need to do laundry, and clean the floors, and put away dishes, and make beds. These things have to happen. But guess who’s really, really eager to do anything I ask as long as we’re doing it together? My kids. So I’ve been trying to engage them when I need to get some things done on the weekends.
When it comes to the evenings, I’ve set a new rule: no shows. The TV is staying off when I’m home. There’s a window of two and a half hours in which I have to invest in my munchkins, and we really don’t need to spend it with mouths gaping and eyes glazed over staring at a movie. My love language is quality time, and nothing says love to me like playing Candy Land, bingo, or dominoes, putting together a puzzle, coloring, or reading books together. There’s time for zoning out on the couch after they go to bed. Unless we’re sick, and then, okay, movie. Or weekend night. There’s going to be exceptions, obviously. The point is, these are my KIDS. I want them to know that they are important, that they are a priority in my life, and that they are loved.
The payoff is huge.