You need to focus on turning the scarce time into something memorable for both you and your children. Once you commit, you will figure out a way to do that
Many new parents are excited at having their desires fulfilled when they are gifted with a child. Life is very nice and dandy, and happiness knows no bounds, but time passes by very fast when you are having fun. Soon enough, a time comes to send your child to daycare because both parents have to return to their work schedule. In no time your four-month-old child is four years and has to go to school and in no time, s/he will be 14—a teenager at that. In a span of few years, this inexorable march of time turns babies into big children.
If you still cannot visualize, then try this mental trick to help you readjust your thinking. During your crazy day’s schedule, imagine your biological parenthood clock fast forward to the time when your children have grown and have left home. Picture their untidy bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car all vacuumed and without chocolate wrappers and potato chip bags or crumbs. Your house that lacks the noise and commotion. Then rewind the imaginary clock back to present and see today’s chaos for what they are: finite and fleeting. I am sure you got my point, but you are helpless.
In the midst of the busy schedule of hectic mornings and evenings spent gathering your moorings, time just flies, and children grow up. Every day brings new growth, new milestones, but the challenges of juggling your adult lives often prevent you from fully appreciating the delicate nuances of childhood. You fail to notice that you were not spending enough time with your children. Every day at the end of the day, you just have enough energy left to drag yourself to bed, so you can wake up early and start the routine all over again. Or attend a social function that is very important for your social status.
Suddenly with a start, you realize you are not spending enough time with your little one. Well, you are not alone. One of the concerns of parents these days is related to the time they spend with their children. They are constantly thinking: ‘Am I spending enough time with my children? Did I miss any important landmark in my children’s developmental growth?’ It is entirely possible some of you might be comparing the time your parents spent with you and the time you are spending with your children now. Others might be just feeling the need to spend more time with their children so they can make a difference in their children’s life. Some might want to spend more time with their children to form a special bond with them. Then again time is a major factor. Never fear, despite your busy schedule you still can make a difference. You still can find time to spend with your children. But how?
The first thing to do is to spend whatever time you can spare with them. There are different types of parenting. But through my long experience, one thing that I have realized is that there is one single truth that applies to all kinds of parenting philosophy: children need to spend more quality time with their parents. Children need to see who their parents are and how they live their life. While doing this they also help parents better see who they are. I am sure you too have realized that children grow very fast and as soon as they start school, the time for parent’s interaction with their children is drastically reduced.
When you actually add up the available time to spend with your children, there is not much. Activities that don’t involve you take up the major chunk of their time. The only available time is after they come back from school. That too is shared with their entertainment, sports and homework. If you look closely, there are only certain areas that you can involve yourself. One could be the sports time and the time during eating dinner and after dinner entertainment and that too is usually taken up by television. Under such circumstances, parents need to be very creative and make an effort to get involved in their children’s activities. Oh, and there is the Saturday that’s left, and I have not even talked about your busy schedule.
So instead of counting the time you have, you need to focus on turning the scarce time into something memorable for both you and your children. Once you commit yourself to spending time with your children, you will figure out a way to do that.
Let me put it this way. Your time starts when your children come home from school. Your first opportunity is when your child is sitting down for his/her snack after school. This is the time to talk to them about their activities at school. You too can grab a cup of tea and give him/her company and conduct small talk. Try to avoid questions that might be settled with yes/ no answers. Ask questions that require your child to reflect back to the day’s activities to respond in full sentences.
Think of this as a gossip session with your child. You want to know everything that happened in school, but don’t want to sound like you are snooping. This is where your creativity comes in handy. Do not pressure for answers that they might not want to volunteer to share with you. As they become more comfortable with you, they will look forward to sharing all with you. Until then, have patience and focus on building a good relationship with your child. This will give you a solid half-hour of precious time spent with your child. After that, your child might want to go out and play with their friends. After they return, it’s time for their homework. If you want, you can be part of this session too, but not many parents want to and hence they have tutors. I would advise parents to not keep tutors at an early age. That will only make your child lazy and uninterested in studies. They will rely on their tutor helping them do the homework and will not work toward learning much at all. This sometimes results in children getting bad grades in their exams.
The best thing to do would be to have your child do homework while you cook dinner. In that case you can help with their homework in case they need help. It is also an opportunity for them to bond with you. Your next window of opportunity is after they finish their homework. This is the time to talk to them about topics they are interested in or introduce them to new topics that might spark their imagination and curiosity. They might be interested in knowing how you spent your time as a child, your games and activities. Your children might find it interesting. Involving your children to help make dinner and help with cleanup, after dinner is usually a fun activity. Take dinner time as something special.
Convert it into family time. Make a point of eating dinner with your children on a regular basis. Create laughter moments. Laugh and be silly with your child. Create a situation where they will look forward to eating dinner with you. Sometimes fathers can make it special by telling your children they will have a ‘momo night’, ‘pizza night’ or ‘giving mom a break night’. They will look forward to that time all day with much excitement. Not only that, they will also talk about it the next day with their friends. Fathers have a special job of getting children involved in other household activities like cleaning or fixing, washing the car or your bike or grooming your pet, if you have one. The best is still working in the garden with your children. Taking walks with them is a wonderful way of sharing common space and activity with them.
Spending the weekend with your children is a wonderful idea. Get them engaged in a day trip or day hiking or even reading a book together and discussing. I used to read the same books my children read, so I could interact with them. I played Legos with them and even watched them play computer games and helped them strategize wins. I never played the games myself. However, you can play their games with them and win too. Show your emotions. It’s a good thing for children to occasionally see their parents as human and vincible. They will get a real kick out of watching you play their games without their expertise and dexterity and lose.
Finally, if you find a way to successfully utilize every moment you have with your children, you will not only be a wonderful parent, but you will also teach your children how to be good adults and wonderful parents when the time comes. Make a point of showing your children how important your time with them is, thus impacting future generations to come. The main idea is to have the channel of communication open between you and your child. Now that is not very difficult, right parents?
Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books