I want that word to be part of the fabric of our family. Connection to each other. Connection to our community. Connection to our friends. Connection to God. I guess that's why I have been on a connection blogging kick this year! A simple glance at that word would lead me to believe that we are perfect candidates to be a homeschooling family. Only problem with that is: we're not. At the writing of this post we are a public school family with a deep desire to stay connected despite our time apart. With tight fists we hold onto the truth that every parent is the first and most influential teacher their child has and therefore every parent is their child's teacher. With open hands we evaluate year by year how best to accomplish the task of educating and shaping our children. The precise how-to is an ongoing process of prayer, personal conviction and Spirit-led living.
For a family centric mom like me, sending my girls out the door 5 days a week can be very disheartening. If I let myself, I can get caught up in the "lost hours" mentality. The mentality that convinces me that the only way to stay connected to my children is to be with them all the time. Hands down, spending all day every day with your children is one way to live a life of connection. However, I also believe that it is possible to spend time together with the ones you love most and still not be connecting on a regular basis. Connection is a process that includes the mind, heart and emotions not simply physical proximity. When I am tempted to dwell on the "lost hours" of school I remind myself that parenting is largely about being in my children's hearts. This parenting gig is one that is always progressing towards independence, the time where we will no longer be a part of our children's daily goings-on. Living a life of connection has a great deal to do with sharing and spending time together, I'm all about that. But even more so, I believe connecting with my kids while we are apart can form a deeper, longer lasting connection.
- when time is limited and life feels stretched
- when selfishness rears it's ugly head
- when you feel bone tired
- when the "daily" of life seems too much
Here are some ideas that work to make that happen in our home.
1. Notes. Notes in our house take on many forms. Many days I may draw the girls close to me as they are getting ready for school and write a simple, "I love you" on their hands. I include handwritten or computer printed lunchbox notes in their lunches. I write in their mommy and me journals about something I did during my day and ask them to write about something that happened during their day. Through the use of written language I desire to stay connected with my children and weave our separate days into a beautiful tapestry of our life.
2. Words of encouragement and praise. I've already written about the importance of words in families here but it is worth repeating. I want the predominant voice my kids hear when they think of me to be a positive one. That requires a lot of work! Is my habitual correcting what they hear as my voice? Are the "hurry up" or "what now?" drowning out the language of my hearts desires? Or is it the tender words lovingly spoken. The quiet of our times alone debriefing our days. Allowing God to refine me as a wife and mother specifically through my mouth is a big deal and one that requires daily submission to God.
3. Staying involved. My girls absolutely love that I volunteer in their classrooms. It brightens their day (not to mention their teachers day!) to know that I am making time to spend with them. I can't think of a single teacher, school or daycare center that doesn't have some job or task in which a volunteer would be helpful. This requires adjusting some aspects of my life to leave room but it is incredibly worth it.
4. Predetermined family time. Letting our kids know that "Tonight is family night" or letting them know that we are going to do something special on Saturday builds anticipation. Building anticipation is a sure way to make sure our children think about us. The important thing about setting up these special outings or times together at home is that there is consistent follow through. It is painful for a child to be looking forward to something only to have the plans change and promises broken. Our girls thrive when they know they are going to have a special date with daddy on a specific night or that we are going to play a game as a family after dinner. Eliminating the possibility of interruption is not always possible but rearranging our lives so that family time is a priority is essential.
5. Pray, pray, pray. In the end our children are with us for such a short amount of time. More than anything I want my kids to know that there is Someone who loves them a whole lot more than I do. There is Someone who has the ability to meet their souls deepest need. There is Someone who will never break promises or let them down. There is Someone who will never leave them or forsake them. I want them to know the freedom and peace of a growing relationship with God and I want to daily bring their names before His throne. I can think of no greater way to connect to my children than to point them towards the ultimate connection. The God who formed them and knit them together in my womb. I want to connect with my Heavenly Father on their behalf and then just see what He will do.
Truthfully, no matter what our circumstances are, there will be lost hours. We are only human and are incapable of connecting perfectly. That is why it's my hearts desire to do what I am able and leave the rest to God. There are no lost hours with God.