My kids are devouring their kitschy name brand waffles in their distinctive circular shape alongside little green frog shaped bowls their Mac & Cheese tumbles down itself in a mountainous shape. It’s after 6pm and it’s dinnertime.
Am I a bad parent? Probably not…but I am a busy parent.
I’m a full-time Pastor which in this season occupies every weekend and 3 or more nights a week. We’re working diligently on our Christmas production, launching a new website and much more! My wife is studying to be a nurse and works part-time. I have two kids that are in Spanish immersion school. Which means there is probably 40 hours a week of combined homework. That doesn’t include sports or any other extracurricular activities. Oh, and we’re trying to buy a house that is a short sale (99 days and counting). Sound familiar? Here’s some blank space for you to imagine a paragraph describing the busyness of your life:
Earlier this year, I had an experience with our daughter Libby who was six at the time. It was past bedtime and both our kids (our son Parker was five at the time) had been tucked in, prayed for and cast off to their dreams.
My wife and I were both reading on the couch downstairs, when the all too familiar sound of feet padding down the hallway caused us to look up to our open staircase. There was the little sandy blonde hair of my daughter’s head peering through the banister down on us. I uttered words I’ve said a thousand times, “Libby, it’s time to go to sleep, do you need something?” She quickly replied, “Daddy you forgot to pray for me.”
I responded, “No sweetheart, I prayed for you…now go back to bed please.” To which she curtly replied, “No you didn’t” and thus began a playful moment of “Yes, I did.” “No, you didn’t” “Yes, I did” “No, you didn’t”
After a bit of laughter, I played the Dad/Pastor combo card and challenged her with “Why don’t you go back to your bed and ask God if I prayed for you?” She padded off to her room. I went back to the book I was reading. Maybe twenty seconds passed and her little voice emerged from her room declaring, “God said you didn’t pray for me!”
After stilling my laughter, I retorted, “That’s funny, God told me I did!” I realized this was a teachable moment, so I made my way up the stairs into her room, onto her bedside. In that moment I was able to connect with her on a new level. A natural and teachable moment on the importance of prayer and spending time talking with God – especially when we feel left out.
After I prayed for her (the second time, I assure you) time seemed to slow down…just the two of us in the glow of her Tinker Bell nightlight – her lying snuggly tucked under her layers of blanket and Panda Bear PJs. Me resting beside her, our faces almost touching…truly a vulnerable moment, one not to be missed. “I love you daddy,” she said her sweet little breath spilling the words over me. The words “I love you!” emerged from the deepest part of me. “I love you.” Truly a vulnerable moment.
All that was waiting for me downstairs…my email, the growing To Do list, that book I’ve been meaning to read…it all faded away. There was just a deep connection between my only daughter and I.
It hit me…even when we’re crazy busy. We can still clearly demonstrate our love to our kids. Looking back, there are three simple moments we shouldn’t miss. I can tell you from experience that we can all choose to be present in these three moments with our kids – no matter HOW busy we are.
The Playful Moment
These are the moments when our kids just want a few minutes of our time. They want us to touch them, to play with them, to wrestle or imagine alien attacks…to be a friend to them…to PLAY with them. Getting home from work has become NOT about me…but about this moment of playtime with the kids. When my daughter is bantering back and forth with me – she wants me to PLAY with her. As the kids get older, we need to find new ways to PLAY. Regardless, don’t miss the playful moments!
The Teachable Moment
These moments are easy to miss. Yet they are frequently found right in front of our noses. The more we look for them – the more obvious they become. When my daughter responds with a brilliantly funny comment (albeit not really true) I have an opportunity to seize that teachable moment. In the midst of your relationship with them and their relationship with others…don’t miss the teachable moments!
The Vulnerable Moment
There are many moments when our kids are vulnerable. Recognize these moments and be vulnerable in response to them! When my daughter is lying there quiet, tender and feeling loved…that is a vulnerable moment. It seems these occur almost every night before they go to sleep (unless you have teenagers – in that case, just be patient in a few years the vulnerable moments will return – Ha!). Don’t miss the vulnerable moments!
I had the greatest opportunity as a parent to show my daughter how much I love her by being present in each moment that night. I could have told her to go back to bed and ignored her playful, teachable and vulnerable self…I’ve done that before. But thankfully, God allowed me to be present in those three moments.
If you’re a busy parent like me – you can show love to your kids by being fully present in these three moments with them. Be present in the playful moments, the teachable moments, and the vulnerable moments – and watch how your kids soak up the depth of your love and flourish.