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No mom would be proud to say they feel disconnected from their kids. No one wakes up and says, “Gee, I sure hope I don’t connect with my children today.”
Nope. No one. Ever.
But, it happens. And I would venture to say…to most every mom.
I may be with my children everyday, all day, but yet last night I realized this has become a truth in my own life.
I am disconnected from them.
Last night I laid beside Gavin at bedtime. We went through the usual routine: prayer, story, song.
I usually ask him what was good about his day and he replied as he does often, “Daddy coming home.” They adore their father, they get excited when he walks through the door, which I am so thankful. This is probably normal for many stay-at-home moms. But tonight, I pressed a little deeper-maybe because I was feeling a little left out, “What was something good about your day with mommy?”
Nothing. Blank stare into the side of the bed. I asked him 2 more times, each time with a smile and a change in my voice inflection, trying to get him to say something!
Now at this point, I was trying to figure out if he was just tired, was he thinking about something else, was he distracted (which is common for a 4 year old) or was he really struggling to find the good in his day with mommy? I leaned over to look at his precious face.
Nothing. He was just staring blankly at the bed.
It hit me at that moment. For a four-year-old life is about fun and joy and playfulness..but for him today there had been none of that with mama.
Now, in my mind I was thinking, ” What? We went for a play date today, I made you lunch, I let you watch some shows, I…..”
Then it hit me. I did nothing with him. Taking care of his necessities of bathing and feeding and cleaning up toys didn’t give him any joy. I was saddened at that moment.
Then after a long silent pause, he turned and looked at me and said, “Playing with mommy.”
I said nothing.
He rolled over and I sang him a song, I prayed over him, kissed him good night and walked out. Saddened that the one thing he finally spoke of being good about his day with mommy—never happened.
I never played with him.
And I must confess it’s been a long while since I have sat down and played with him.
I spend everyday with him. We go for walks, we read together, I do educational games with them, I work on his alphabet and numbers, I take them places, I take them to the park, play dates, I clean his room, I let them play outside.
But play with him? Nope. I haven’t done that. Not for awhile.
Now I know that it isn’t possible, necessary or healthy to play with our kids all day long. They need time alone, to be creative but they still in their hearts long to have those precious moments of “play” time with mommy.
The truth is difficult to swallow sometimes. He longs to play with me, to laugh with me, to have fun with me. His mommy. He longs for me to enjoy being with him.
But I’m always engaged in something else. Always I’m multitasking because that is the only way I’ll ever get anything done and I have SO much to do. Always I’m consumed with accomplishing something. Always something else takes priority. But just being here with my children doesn’t translate to connected parenting. I’m disconnected from my children.
So what does it mean to be connected?
It means to be joined, linked together or plugged in.
I must plug into my kids. Be linked together with them, joined with them, be a part of them and their lives. Just living with my children, feeding them, taking care of their necessities isn’t being connected to them. I must seek out ways to connect with them. If I want to be connected with them as teenagers, I need to learn to connect with them today.
Having multiple children poses even more of a challenge. Each of my children is unique, as are yours, and connecting to them looks different for each child.
I must get to know each child. To know how to best connect to them.
And it’s not just about “playing with them” although at my children’s ages this is important, but its about truly connecting , loving them where they are as they are. Engaging them. Seeing them for who they truly are. Enjoying them. Studying them. Knowing them.
So, here are 3 ways the Lord has shown me what to do when you feel disconnected from your child.
3 Ways To Connect With Our Children
1. Engaging them. Nothing substitutes time spent with our children. To engage is to consume all of ones’ attention, to participate in an activity. Spending quality time with them while engaging my whole being-mind, heart and soul. Be all there.
2. Enjoying them. Take delight in them. Have you ever been with someone you knew wasn’t having a good time? It makes me uncomfortable. I can’t be me when I’m worried they aren’t enjoying themselves. I can’t be joyful knowing they are not. This is also true with my kids. If they don’t see joy in me when I am with them, it’s hard for them to enjoy themselves. They know when I’m only there in body and not having any fun. Kids are very perceptive. Enjoying them means receiving benefit from having been with them. Do they believe I have benefited from time with them or that I went through the motions?
3. Knowing them. I have been convicted lately to start studying my kids everyday. Taking notes. Paying attention to what they like, don’t like. What makes them tick, what brings them joy. What their love language is. To know someone is being aware of information that is known to few people. I get the blessing of knowing my kids, of knowing the details that few people will ever know about them. In our culture of superficial relationships and busyness, most of us will remain anonymous to others. Who we really are will stay unknown to most. And if no one dares to invest in us, to really get to know us, we will more than likely have difficulty knowing our true selves and an even harder time believing in a God who knows us intimately.
Being known means someone knows the truth about who we are in our hearts, minds and souls and loves and accepts us as we are. Being known gives us confidence to become who God created us to be.
Much of our troubles today come from being unknown to anyone. A lack of connection to others and ultimately to God.
I am so thankful for this moment with my son. Don’t let these moments reveal your shortcomings, let them remind you of a God who reveals truth and shows us a better way.
Please share ways you have found to connect to your children.
Motherhood is a full time job. We all know this. It’s 24/7. 365 days a year. We don’t even get a “sick day”. We are the mama. We wear many hats, and wash, clean and organize every one of them. We have numerous responsibilities and countless sacrifices. My job description is similar to most of yours. The exact situations will vary, but raising children is cross generational. I love how MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) puts it:
We are raising the world together.
Every mother has an enormous impact on the future generation. Our children will be tomorrow’s life-changers. At least, that is certainly how I want to see my children–world changers. I want my children to live so differently that the world pauses and takes notice. Envisioning our children’s future is awesome and scary at the same time. And so very important.
We live today what we plan for tomorrow.
But, honestly, today I was just plain selfish, and irritated and tired. Period. I didn’t see my sweet cherubs as life changers, I saw them as little turkeys who were just plain driving me to need a long bath (that I would take if we weren’t in stage 5 drought restrictions). And yes, as a mom of 3 preschoolers, I have many days like this. I have many great days as well, but too often I find myself sitting in a place of complaint and frustration and self pity. That place that says, “This is really hard. And I’m failing at this. And I need to change their behaviors. And I can’t ever get ahead of their mess.” Yes, those days. Please tell me you have them, too.
It’s on these days, in these moments, however, that God-if I choose to listen-can speak most dearly to my heart. It’s days like today when His love surrounds me and redirects my focus back to Him. In the midst of my selfishness, my discontent and my crummy attitude, he extends His grace to me. He reminds me that being a mother is my job, my first priority. For me, it’s a beautiful life I longed for and chose with excitement and ambition. But somewhere along the way, I can lose my focus. I get caught up in me instead of God. Instead of my children, my husband, my family. I have been praying Romans 12:2,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
This is my life verse for Living Differently. But specifically this morning, I focused on the -renewing of your mind-part. I will share with you how God renewed my mind on a late afternoon walk with my children.
10 Questions To Renew Your Mind As A Mother
1. Do I see my children’s ages as a season to get through or as a time to be treasured?
2. Am I dealing with my preschoolers behaviors or am I loving them?
3. Do I yell and roll my eyes in frustration or do I smile with joy?
4. Are my children an interference or a blessing?
5. Am I angry and resentful or am I grateful and content?
6. Are they in my way or my way of life?
7. Are they distracting my focus or are they my focus?
8. Are they irritating or inspiring?
9. Do I discourage their “why’s” or do I encourage their questions of life?
10. Do I look forward to them sleeping or enjoy them while they’re awake?
Yes, it’s truth to admit that our lives as mothers will continually be an ongoing struggle between these varying attitudes. But as I spoke all of these into my phone on my walk, I felt the sharp pang of conviction. This, my friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit. My attitude needs renewing. My heart needs transforming – far more than my children’s normal childish behaviors. I am thankful for a God who reaches deep into my heart and painfully reveals who I am, but loves me enough not to leave me there.
If I want to live differently as a mom, I need to start thinking differently in my mind.
As a mom, how have YOU struggled between these differing attitudes?
I was just now trying to round up my three munchkins for nap time. And as I stood in the kitchen, finishing up a task I was engrossed in, I yelled, “Gavin, go get your pull-ups on and get in bed. Abba, pick out your pull-ups and go tee-tee, it’s time for nap.” They ran by me laughing and giggling and went to hide from me. I continued on with what I was finishing up. I started putting the dishes away from lunchtime. This time when they ran by I said a little more sternly, ” Come on, it’s time for naps.”
Seriously, Alissa? What was I thinking? And it dawned on me. What I am doing is ridiculous and meaningless. The verse from Ecclesiastes 1:14 came to mind, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind.” This hollering at the kids from afar, barking commands at them, and thinking that I’m doing anything good or worthwhile is pointless and like striving after the wind. You cannot catch the wind. You cannot train a toddler or preschooler by barking commands from afar. I know this. I’ve read books about training your children. And most of you know this too. But we still do it. Is it out of habit? Or because that’s how we were raised? Is it because it’s easier in the short term? Or possibly because I’m not being intentional with my words? That was it for me. I find myself lately just saying things. Not really even thinking about the words that come out of my mouth. I didn’t say any “bad” words, I didn’t even scream at them…this time.
But immediately God gave me…
5 reasons to quit barking commands at your children.
1. They aren’t listening. When I holler at them from afar, they are usually engrossed in some other activity, be it playing, reading, or just laughing and having a good time. They are children. They are toddlers and preschoolers. They are the most impressionable they may ever be. And they can only focus on one thing at a time. Thankfully they aren’t into multi-tasking like I am and so many of us are.
2. They think it’s fun to run away and hide. Notoriously, if I tell them something when I’m not in the room with them, they automatically think it’s a game. Let’s run from mama! They are all about laughing and enjoying life at this age. Oh, I’m so thankful for that. I want to learn to enjoy life and have fun from being with my children. I want them to enjoy being with mommy and see me as being fun and enjoyable to be with. But do I want them to learn that anytime I speak, it’s their job to run away and hide?
3. I’m teaching them NOT to listen to me. This one was like a blaring red light to me. I’m teaching them that my words aren’t important. That what I have to say is not worth obeying, or listening to. I’m teaching them that the first time I speak, they can disregard the command. They are learning that it’s only when mommy gets angry or raises her voice that she means business. What am I doing? Is this how I want to train my child? If I want my words to be important to them, then I must teach them that when I speak, they are to listen.
4. I am breeding my own frustration and anger. Really. Why do I become so irritated and frustrated when my kids aren’t listening to me? Because most of the time, I’m not being clear with my instructions. At ages 2 & 3 they still have to learn what it means to obey mommy and daddy. They are learning all the time and processing what is important and what is not. When I tell them something and they don’t listen, I obviously didn’t communicate effectively. The next time I become frustrated, irritated or angry, I must stop and think, is this because of them, or most likely is it because of who I am or what I’m doing in this moment? How could I be more effective with my communication? It will take more time. It will take more thought, but in the end, when I’m more at peace and gentle with my children and even my husband for that matter, it will all have been worth it.
5. I’m speaking meaningless words. God has been bringing to my mind the power of words lately. Every word we speak as the power of life and death. Words are powerful. They can build up and encourage or they can tear down and destroy. It says in Proverbs that a wise woman builds her house. I believe that encompasses the words we choose. When we choose to let words loosely slip from our mouths, we aren’t being intentional with “building our home.” In Ecclesiastes 5:3 it says, “For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.” Oh, I love this verse. It penetrates to my soul. Do you see what it says? A FOOL uses many words. Do you find yourself talking and talking and saying things over and over and it seems like no one is listening? Could it be your family has learned that your words ramble on and are not meaningful? Have they learned that mommy is always talking, always hollering, always barking at us and they have chosen to tune us out? Now, it is imperative for our children to obey and respect us. But are the words we are choosing worthy of being obeyed and respected? Ecclesiastes 5:7 also says, “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.” Many words are empty. I must choose my words carefully, especially at the young age of my children. I want them to learn early on that mommy’s words are meaningful.
So, what must I do to be changed? Did you catch it? In Ecc 5:7… Fear God. I must seek God and His spirit will do the nudging, the changing deep within my soul. The words of this blog post will not change you. And even I, with engrained habits, will continue to shout things to my kids, but little by little as I seek to know God more, as I pursue a life transformed by the Holy Spirit, he will make these nudges more noticeable, like he did for me today. Today, as I hollered at them to take a nap, I felt God tell me to “Stop. Go to them. Gently explain what is expected of them. And lead them. Again. And again. And again.”
God doesn’t just convict us and show us what we are doing wrong. He gently leads us and shows us a better way. Oh, that I would choose the better way. That I would choose words that build up my family. That I would choose right actions over many meaningless words.
I love it when God gives us direction and wisdom. He doesn’t dump it on us. He doesn’t scream it at us. He gently opens our eyes to show us His way, the better way, the way of righteousness. Today, I commit to God and to you reading this, that I will be intentional in choosing the words I speak to my children. I know that my dream of having my children be wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ, of being loving and kind, patient and peaceful, servants and leaders will only come with much effort and training.
Lord, help me to lead them as gently as you lead me. When I am speaking to my children, help me to choose few words wisely, and to go to them and speak with gentleness and kindness. When I’m becoming frustrated, may I remember that the source of my irritation is probably me and help me to recognize where I need to make changes in myself. I love you Lord, and trust you with my children as you love them even more than I do. Thank you for showing me how I can love them better and train them in how they should go. Amen.
So, how are you communicating to your children?
Are your words effective or meaningless?
How is God nudging you to choose the “better way”?
Have you ever thought about how YOU want to be remembered? Have you ever thought of your life with the END in mind, first?
I’m sitting in Starbucks, creating my life plan for 2014. I started listing my priorities for this current year and was inspired to think about how I want to be remembered. I’ve heard others talk about writing their obituaries. To me, writing my obituary is not inspiring. It’s depressing. But thinking about “How I Want To Be Remembered”, now that is inspiring.
As I started writing, I started dreaming of and envisioning my future. I started really thinking about what people will say about me someday…maybe when I’m gone, or maybe when I’m seasoned and gray sitting and reflecting on the one life God had given me. Who was Alissa Perez? Writing about who I want to become, most assuredly helps me to create who I want to be today.
This is who I hope to become…
how I hope to be remembered…
and who I will intentionally strive for being today.
Alissa Perez loved her family and friends, and her love for her God was contagious. Her faith in God was evident in how she lived her life. She taught others to seek first God’s kingdom and her time with God was sacred. She was a devoted wife and her husband was blessed by her all the days of his life. She loved, served and respected him in all he did. Her children adored her and felt calm and peaceful in her presence. She devoted her life to training her children well. She taught them a love of reading, to fear, love and trust God, to respect themselves and others and a genuine love of learning. She showed her children the importance of serving others. She lived selflessly, caring for the needs of other above her own. She had the best smile. And people felt welcome in her presence. Her strong character was apparent to all: integrity, gentleness, compassion, patience and kindness. She cared about others and their circumstances. Her parents always received her heartfelt respect and honor. She invested in her relationships with her friends and family.
She never seemed rushed or in a hurry. Commitment was important in her relationships. She was devoted to prayer and passionately loved to share the message of Jesus with others. The Bible was her book of wisdom, instruction, guidance and truth. She exuded joy-even in difficult circumstances. Thankfulness was in her heart and on her lips. She tried to live simply in a world of abundance. She stuck to her budget and did not desire excess. She was fun to be around and brought humor and grace into her home. She loved to travel and teach her children about the world She listened to jazz and classical music and loved exposing her children to the fine arts. She was quick to listen and slow to speak. When she spoke, she chose words that brought life. She responded with gentleness and grace, not anger and condemnation. She sought God’s wisdom above her own or the opinions of others. She sought order, not chaos but lived a life of freedom and spontaneity. She chose what was better and turned away from that which deterred her from a full life in Christ.
She was confident in who God created her to be and was thankful for the gifts she had been given. She used her talents to the best of her ability in serving the body of Christ. She was not envious but found joy in the blessings of others. She focused on pleasing God, not pleasing man. She loved unconditionally. She lived purposefully. She chose freedom in Christ over fear from the Enemy. She passed on an inheritance of strong faith and character to her children. They will forever be reminded of her love by the intentional memories she created. She was authentic and real. She chose to live for today and hope in tomorrow, rather than regret her yesterdays.
She lived a life full of faith, hope and love.
And above all else she chose LOVE.
How do YOU want to be remembered?
As I begin to pursue intentional living, I am reminded that I am not only responsible for my own life. As the mother of three sweet, precious children, I am responsible for helping mold their character and their lives. What a huge responsibility! So, I started thinking about two questions that I need to answer. First, what strengths do I possess that I want to pass on to my children? And, second, what weaknesses do I struggle with that I would NOT want my children to inherit or learn from me? Whether I realize it or not, I am passing these traits on to my children. So here is my list and my intentional plan to either promote my strengths or change my weaknesses in order to help myself and my children become all that God intends.
- My strengths…
- Faith in Jesus….I will continue to build my relationship with Jesus. Daily. I will make reading God’s word a priority and I will let them see me reading and praying as much as possible.
- Love of reading…I will read to them daily and have books out around the house for them to access easily. I will stop what I’m doing (as much as possible) to read to them when they approach me with a book.
- Integrity…I will continue to make truth be of utmost importance.
- Love of learning…I will look for and provide them with many opportunities to learn. I will engage their curiosity and their natural enthusiasm for life.
- Mercy/compassion…I will show them compassion at all times and model that for them with others. I will love them unconditionally and empathize with their feelings.
- Optimism…I will look for and find the good in people in all circumstances. I will be thankful and content in all situations.
- Love being outside…I will take them to explore nature as much as possible and show them the beauty of God’s creation.
- Love to travel…We will travel with them to as many new places as possible, near and far, while we have the opportunity.
- Good listener…I will really listen to my children as much as possible. I especially will look at them and get to their level when they speak to me.
- Good encourager…I will encourage them in all things. I will build them up with life-giving words. I will speak truth and encourage them to trust God.
- My weaknesses…
- Fear…I will trust God in all things, at all times. I will teach them that with God, we need never to be afraid.
- Worry…I will work on praying instead of wrestling with worry. I will grow in my prayer life, remembering to pray at all times.
- People pleaser…I will remember that the only person I need to please is God alone. He is my judge and my Lord.
- Disorganization…I will simplify as much as possible. I will work on following through with my tasks. God is a God of order, not chaos.
- Too serious sometimes…I will remember to laugh at myself and life. Stop and enjoy today and smile as much as possible.
- Stubborn/prideful..I will acknowledge God’s sovereignty and power in my life. Knowing how BIG God is, reminds me how small I am. Pray for humbleness.
- Judgmental…I will give the grace that I have been so freely given. I will daily remind myself where I have been delivered from. Praise Jesus!
Oh, Lord, this is who I want to become. This is who I want my children to become. Lord, in my own power and strength, I will never be able to master any of this. But it is through your grace and mercy that I have the opportunity to grow in these areas. It is because of your power and generosity that you allow me and my children to grow to become people of strong character. This is my prayer and my greatest desire…to become more like You. Thank you for loving me enough to want this for me too. Amen.