I know this dad who loves his kids deeply…but doesn’t know how to relate to them very well. He has made huge efforts to do fun over-the-top things with them only to have the kids respond with luke-warm feelings at best and disinterest most of the time. The responses from the kids are disheartening to the dad and he withdraws a bit to lick his wounds. A month or so later, the process repeats itself. It’s leaving the kids disconnected from the dad and the dad feeling like a failure and frustrated with the kids for not wanting to do the fun things together.
I’ve thought about this many times…and I’ve never said a word to the dad because I don’t want to come off wrong…condescending or like I have a clue what I’m doing…and let’s face it, he didn’t ask for my opinion…but from the outside looking in, it’s easier to get perspective…my pride and emotions aren’t the ones being damaged more and more with each pass through the cycle. So, this morning, I am musing about it so that I can process what I am seeing.
I see two children who are checked out. They would rather interact with a video game or tv screen than with a human. (That part is not necessarily unusual in most homes unfortunately.) I see parents who love their kids deeply but who are willing to let the video game and tv be the main influencers of their kids 90% of the time. Then, the parents clue in to what is going on and make a huge effort to do something with the kids that will “wow” them. The kids know that this will fizzle out shortly (because it always has) and so they no longer respond to the over-the-top display of affection. This leaves the parents exasperated and frustrated and feeling like failures. The cycle repeats constantly and relationships are becoming more and more fractured.
I understand the lure of letting the tv or video games or whatever dominate your child’s attention because, let’s face it, there is a lot to do and not enough time to do it. (My current to do list is 3 pages long! I get it!) The thing is, there is not one single thing on that list that is more important than any relationship you have in your life. What if, instead of big overtures, we spent precious little moments with those we love. If the goal is to connect, why not steal away moments alone with the child to ask them about their lives (and…here is the hard part…not offer advice unless it is asked for.) Ask questions that get them talking about what they are interested in. Talk about the gifts and talents that you see in them and ask them if they see them too, how they are developing those talents, and how those talents play into their future. Ask them about their friends, what characteristics their friends have that they admire and why. If you show someone every day that you are invested in them, the walls come down. If you are only showing them investment every once in a while, well…it’s easy to defend against that…and make no mistake…it is defense for them even if it is intended to be fun…because they know your interest in them will go away again…it isn’t sustainable in the large doses because life is going to steal your attention away again…and that hurts.
So how are you doing with this? Do you have a relationship in your life that is waning because of a lack of daily (or at least regular) investment? Is there some way that you could invest on a small but regular basis…something sustainable? Who are you meant to go deeper with? Are you? If you aren’t, how can you let them know that you want to develop a healthier, more stable relationship with them?
My prayer this morning is that we would reduce our to-do lists by putting names on them instead of activities. I’m praying that we would focus on the people God has blessed us with and that they would feel loved and seen and valued…and consequently, that we would show them one more glimpse of God’s character. Much love friends,