Mike Berry talks about how our busyness affects our children and what we can do to be more engaged.
Lets be honest, life gets busy, and life is hectic. Between balancing careers, friendships, our marriages, and our hobbies, we are stretched pretty thin. As men, we are wired to produce and driven to succeed. Often times, our children get caught in the whirlwind of our drive for success and our on-the-go schedules. This happens in the blink of an eye.
Sure, we have to work for a living. It’s a given. But more often than not, we allow it to get out of hand and either due to doing too much, or not using our time wisely, we overload ourselves to the point of crumbling.
Instead of making some personal changes, we begin to justify our busyness. And we assume that our families, particularly our children, get why we are so distracted and absent. If we look closer, however, we see something very different going on with our kids.
Here are four big, flawed assumptions we tend to make about our children when it comes to our busy lives and work schedules:
1. They’re resilient. We get into this mode of thinking that our children can take it, that they’re strong, and they know their dad has a lot of work to finish. We convince ourselves that they understand why we can’t play catch or a game of cards right now. Wrong. This is a big assumption that just isn’t true. While they may understand that we have to work for a living, they do not understand why we are constantly distracted, running late for their baseball game, or grouchy after a long day. Their little minds cannot see past one small pixel of the bigger picture of life. Don’t assume they can see the whole thing. Your adult problems are a galaxy away from their child problems. When you and I are absent a lot, distracted often, and constantly too busy for them, it weakens their self-confidence and spirit.
2. They know how much we love them. Love is shared through words, but it’s brought to life by action. Keep that at the forefront of your thinking. I’m saying that for me as well as anyone else reading. For years I thought my kids knew I loved them. And, they did, because their hearts were tuned to us as their parents. But they needed to experience my love for them in action, and not just in word. When we get busy, we start throwing the “I love you’s” out a lot. But the amount of love-in-action decreases significantly. That’s the litmus test to determine if you’re showing your love and not just saying it.
3. They understand how busy we are. Much like #1, we justify our busy schedules and our decrease in involvement in their lives by the busyness factor. “Well, I’m just in a busy season right now. That will change soon. I just need to get through _______, and I’ll spend time with my kids!” The problem with a statement like this (and you can fill in the blank), is that once we get through that particular “I just need to,” there’s another “I just need to,” and another after that. It never ends. And it won’t. That’s life. We have to be intentional here with our children. It requires us to make a practice of stopping and spending time with them, on a regular, consistent basis. Waiting until the “I just need to” ends won’t cut it.
4. They’re waiting for quality time with us. Have you ever said this statement to yourself when you’re busy at work? “I just need to work really hard until vacation and then I’ll spend quality time with my family!” I have. In fact, as I’ve been preparing to launch a new book and video series, I’ve been extremely busy. So much so that I have looked at our family vacation in a few weeks and said that statement to myself. The problem with thinking this way or circling a date in the future to “make it to,” is that we are neglecting the smaller, seemingly less-significant times with our children in the meantime. Instead of pinpointing a big vacation date down the road, or a holiday weekend, as your time to spend quality time with your children, take the opportunities you have in the in-between to spend as much time with them as you can. These times are smaller but more frequent. If you do this in quantity, it will become quality. Fact is, your children aren’t eagerly awaiting the big family vacation to the beach in a month as the time they get to spend with their dad. They’re wondering where you are every evening before bedtime, or at the playground while they play on a Saturday morning.
Now that your breath has been knocked out and you’re feeling like a failure, let me encourage you. I have felt the huge conviction after reading something like this more times than I can count, and as I mentioned above, there are more fingers pointing back at me than out at anyone else.
While your children may not be as resilient as you thought they were, and are in need of their dad more than you believed they did, they are also very forgiving. In fact, just the other night, I made a mistake with my youngest son and I apologized (almost in tears) to him. He said in his little mouse voice, “It’s okay daddy … I forgive you!” He meant it too. The next morning as he came down from his room he climbed up into my lap like he always does.
Your children are just as forgiving. They will forgive you for being absent and not paying attention to them, But, because they are so forgiving, you and I have work to do. It starts today! Are you ready to make some big changes?