Recently I was reading about 10 characteristics that are important for you to exhibit to your children. Of the 10, I was challenged in some way by pretty much every one…..they included traits such as patience and practices such as encouragement and affirmation.
The one I took to heart, though, was attentiveness. I want to have a good relationship with my kids. As they grow, I want to cultivate open communication. I want them to know that I can listen, that I hear what they are saying, and that it all matters to me. With two chatty preschoolers, I confess that I probably rarely show them this. I struggle to attentively listen to a 3 year old’s summary of the last Dora video she watched. I debate the value of listening to my five year old’s complaints that no one loves her because we put her on time-out when she misbehaves. I really think I spend a large part of my day not being attentive and I worry that in filtering out the aforementioned chatter, I might also miss something of real value.
So how do I begin to practice attentiveness without indulging every whim and complaint? I spent a day trying to be attentive. It took a lot of my focus and energy. I was tired by the end of the day and I honestly felt like I was falling behind in so many things that fall under my responsibility (laundry was interrupted by a hurt child, the computer was off limits for me all day, and managing finances and being attentive to young children do not agree). I was up until 11:30pm trying to catch up on what I failed to accomplish during a day of turning myself to my children.
But you know what? The girls had a good day. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I was exhausted but they weren’t clamoring for attention (neither good or bad). We played games, I allowed them time to share what they hoped to do, I took time to rock and comfort when there were owies. And I asked questions and I listened.
But now today I have already failed at being attentive. From the moment we woke up, I failed. And what has today been? Lots of fits, time outs, fighting amongst themselves, and me hiding away on the computer because I’m too tired to stay up late tonight to catch up. And you know what? I’m more exhausted by the dramatics of today than the energy expenditure yesterday.
So how do we balance it all? How do we take time to listen to our children, to be available to them and yet get anything done during the day? How do we summon the energy and strength to work late at night in order to catch up on all the things that seem rightfully lower in priority than our children?
I want to be attentive to my beautiful little girls. I want to build a foundation now that will be instrumental to a meaningful relationship as they grow and mature. Lord, grant me the energy and the strength and the wisdom to know when I need to stop and listen!