I think a lot about what I want to do for my kids to help them succeed in life. Just recently I was combatting the “I’m not doing enough” feeling and a simple Pinterest browse sent me reeling. As I was scurrying around to provide experiences for my kids, I ran headlong into a truth so simple, it stopped me in my tracks.
As a homeschool alum looking back, I’m shocked to discover that when I think about what made me feel most secure, most thankful for my parents, most fulfilled and happy, it was less about the things my parents did for me or produced (think Pinterest-worthy crafts or perfect unit studies) but their availability and attention.
As a child, I almost took it for granted that of course my parents wanted to hear this new poem I wrote or wanted to come and see the map my brothers and I had created or that they would want to be drawn into a game we just knew everybody in the family would love. Not that they never had moments when they were busy or that they made their world revolve around us, but they listened and were available enough that that was the default. They made us think it was worth it to say "Come see!" "Did you hear ...?" I can't wait to tell you about ….”
This child-like assumption of unconditional love and interest is a great gift we can give our children. When we give the gift of attention, we are modeling selflessness and the art of listening well; we teach our children that though they are not perfect, that they have ideas worth sharing.
My parents directed my learning, sure, but I now appreciate the restraint it required for them to give me time to absorb and produce and process and speak it back to them in the different ways I was inspired, before driving on to the next thing. In that sense, I felt I was active in my own education.
As a parent, however, it’s all too easy for me to slip into production-line mentality. Let’s just get everyone through the right book, the meal, the clean up, the next activity and get through a Successful Day, easily forgetting that life and love and memories are made in the in-betweens.
I remember someone laughing about a phrase I used during a Sonlight Conversations webinar earlier this year when I said that I want to remember that our children are not a herd to be managed but souls to be nurtured. But it’s true that we need that reminder sometimes, right?
In the midst of the busyness of all the things I need to do for my children to give them a good education, I’m reminded that sometimes one of the best gifts I can give them is to be still and listen, watch and ask, and just “be” with them without an agenda.
Yes, we need to get through the math book and we need to clean up breakfast, but I am going to take an extra few minutes to look into those eyes, let him finish that story, grab that little hand, absorb it all as he explains the jet propulsion of the Lego ship he just built or she pulls me out back to show me the little pile of acorns and petals she gathered.
The of work of being present doesn’t necessarily give me results to show off on my Facebook page. My children’s creations might sometimes look more like Pinterest Fails than pinnable beauties. However, the act of being present and tuning into my kids teaches me selflessness, it purifies my motives and it’s an investment in their hearts. How I spend my time with my children teaches them volumes about who I believe God created them to be: People of value, people with interesting ideas, people worthy of my best time. I pray they will learn to value, listen to and enjoy other people through my example.
As we are going about the things we need to do, I have to remember to hold these children up as treasured even in the midst of the crazy. As simple as it seems, the gift of my presence is one that will last my children a lifetime.
I'd be negligent not to add that this is one of the things I am most thankful for about a tool like Sonlight: Sonlight helps me make the most of my time together with my children. By its very nature, the curriculum encourages parent-child interaction and discussion, not just a “go do this worksheet” mentality. Having resources like the IG and great literature already hand-picked frees me up to do more of the parts of homeschooling that matter most to me, like spending time cuddled up with my kiddos, making memories.
What are ways you carve out time to just be together in the midst of the every day?