For some reason it is so easy to have a conversation with a two year old that sounds like this,
“Do you see?!”
“Bird, Mama. You see!? Bird!”
“Yep. I see.”
I have to really stop myself many times throughout our day and put myself in her shoes. Birds are fascinating to her right now! She is discovering what they are, how they sound, what they do. It is very important to her. It is so easy for my to forget that. I’ve seen many parents who very rarely engage their children in real conversation because it’s boring to the parent. Most of them don’t realize how important that is for their children’s development, not to mention what it does for the parent/child relationship. No matter what stage of life a person is in, they want to feel like they’re heard, like you are fully present, interested in them.
As a family we work very hard to always be present when we are around each other. When kids are little, they don’t just assume your listening and then get mad when they find out you weren’t (like us adults do). Instead, they keep saying your name over and over until you give them total attention and then they proceed to tell you something very important to them. Joseph and I nudge each other if we realize Scarlet has said our name 10 times and no one has answered yet.
For us and our little family, we’ve tried to move all distractions from each other out of our home. I don’t want our kids growing up watching TV in separate rooms or playing with their own toys in their own rooms. I want us all to be able to play together, work together, rest together. I believe it will create a tight-knit family.
Some of these things we’ve just begun to eliminate. Others, we have never really known any different. But here are some of the things we’ve chosen to do so that we can spend more time with each other:
:: Shows, Movies, and video games. Our TV lives on a rolling cart in our closet. On it is a PS2 that we use to play video games and DVDs. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time that either of us actually played video games on the PS2, just because we’re so busy that when we are home that’s not one of the first things we run to. Scarlet really doesn’t watch much TV at all. We pull out the TV maybe every other day. She LOVES her Baby Einstein movies! And I like them too because we can interact together while they play. Joseph and I will sometimes get a Redbox movie and play it on the laptop at night after the babes are in bed. But even here, we are very careful that this doesn’t end up being the only thing we do during our little time of peace at the end of the day.
:: Meals together. We have tried to eliminate eating separately. It happens when Joseph is at work. But every other meal we try to make special and sit us all together and talk. I really believe that it helps Scarlet reconnect with Joseph after he’s been gone all day.
:: We play together. Most of the toys we have are not for different ages or stages. Most of them anyone can play with. Scarlet makes Adi her very special baby food from her kitchen and pretend feeds it to him while he laughs. She LOVES to make puppets out of socks (Joseph did it once and she never forgot). She puts them on her hand and talks to Adi with them. She sings to him a lot. She builds with blocks and knocks them over… he laughs. Pretty much that is what goes on in our house right now. For her, the goal is to make him laugh. While he’s sleeping, is usually when we are cooking, sewing, or having girl time. Some of our toys are: wood blocks (we have three different kinds), stacking cups, shape sorter, a cloth Noah’s Ark with cloth animals, puppets, dress up clothes, and books. Adelai has about three toys that he likes to chew on. But that is all we have. It is really amazing to see her find different ways to entertain him.
:: We work together. About 3 months ago we were so frustrated with trying to make dinner, or shower, or clean because we were trying our best to keep her entertained while we got “work” done. I saw this video and realized that it didn’t have to be that way. And that most likely, she was frustrated because she wants to help. So we started teaching her what we do. It changed her attitude completely. We could tell she felt like she was a part of what was going on around the house. She was “working” too. This, I believe, has been one of those things that has made her feel like she is contributing. She understands that she is a part of something great.
:: We rest together. Yes, our sleeping quarters are very close. It started when Joseph was working a lot and she started not wanting to talk to him when he got home and acting very mopey during the day. I had read that pretty much everywhere else in the world families sleep close and that it helps children feel secure. And really, Joseph would miss her so much during the day that he would get her out of bed when he got home anyway. So we tried it. We made her her very own little place beside our bed. I promise you, her whole countenance changed the very next day. She started accepting love from Joseph like she used too and it worked out great. I know that many people wouldn’t ever want to do this. But for us, this is one of the most significant ways we stay close to each other.
:: We read together. Without having TV or any other distractions we have lots of time to read. I really like the idea of having a Family Bible. Right now our Family Bible is a preschool Bible. But has she and Adi get a little older, I’m sure we’ll find one that fits perfectly.
::We pray together. In the past few weeks we have started teaching Scarlet scripture and how to pray. She’s always prayed the same bedtime prayer. But we would really like to save “learning how to tell God your thoughts” for when she gets a little older. Instead, I want to teach her to pray straight from the Bible. So we’ve been in search of how to simplify scripture to something she can learn. Soon, we’ll all be learning it together.
I did want to say, we also have alone time. We have set up corners of our home that are exactly for that purpose. We also know that not everyone has the same heart or ideas that we do. But for Joseph and I, this is important because it creates security. We’ve realized the different things that create security for us as a couple and for us as a family. Security coupled together with commitment creates a very strong seal, a bond that is impossible to break. We chose to throw out the autopilot button and be fully present with each other.
This is who we are: Fully Present to Listen, Love, and Enjoy each other.