Fighting drift

I fight it when I’m driving down the road in a car full of kids. I fight it when I am making dinner with my teenage daughters by my side.  I fight it when I’m sitting in the quiet living room late at night with my husband and my 17 year old.

It is so easy to just be thankful when the quiet descends. Or when I notice that it has gone on inordinately long, to justify my continued silence. I’m surrounded by people all day, after all. I need down time. I can’t be ‘on’ all the time.

With thinking like that, it can feel easy to drift.  To read the newspaper at the breakfast table. Listen to music in the car instead of chatting with a child one on one. Blog during the last half-hour of my 17 year old’s day instead of asking him how Spanish class went. Until I realize it’s been a day or two since I’ve really connected with each child.

Then my heart nudges me and I really look around and I realize these kids are all half grown or more, every single one of them except for my 6 year old. I don’t want to let moments and hours slip by without effort at connection. Without talking truly and substantively with the ones I love the most.

Sure, there’s a place in every day for quiet.   A fair number of my teens are introverts just like me, and honestly prefer quiet to chatter.  It takes a few minutes of trying for me to even come upon a topic some of them are willing to say more that a few words about.  But I need to keep asking every day anyway.  Keep reaching out with creative, comment-inspiring questions.  Keep turning down the radio and asking their opinion about anything and everything.

Because on days like today when I really make the effort, I’ll get to admire the shine in my 6 year old daughter’s eyes while she tells me all the details of her dream last night.  I’ll get to check out the baby tooth my 9 year old just lost.  My 17 year old will tell me about his Spanish paper. (24/25 points, folks!)  My 13 year old and I will have a 15 minute conversation about the kids in his judo class– why one guy is a good friend and another tends to get push-ups for goofing off, and how his teacher makes kids be respectful.

At the end of the day instead of having only said things like,’drink your juice’ and ‘bring me your math to check’ and ‘did you stick your laundry in the wash?’ and ‘don’t pick on your sister’, I may know just a little more about my children. And even if they don’t turn into chatty charlie on me, they’ll at least know I cared enough to poke my head out of my turtle-shell and pull them close to me, with actions and with words.

{ 7 Comments }

  1. This is me exactly. I also find that with teenagers it is a way to avoid conflIct. I withdraw into my own world to be thankful or to contemplate and miss interacting with my children like I should just because its easier. I like the way you call it “the drift”. Thank you for the gentle reminder to reman engaged.

  2. Thank you for this. I will be printing it out and putting it in my binder to remind me to engage. My children are 7 5 3 1 and so often our day is discipline and business. But when I do connect I realize, I like these people.

  3. LOVE this blog post. I find myself doing this far too often, and I let my children do it – they’ll be happily entertained by tv or something, and its fine at times, but I need to interrupt and pull us into a card game or something interactive at times. Or pull together some cocoa and popcorn and instead of letting them chill out in front of the tv, we sit at the table with each other. We do this so well during vacations, but not as well at home – if they are happy and quiet, I’ll throw in laundry or do some other chore or chill out myself. But, lately, I’ve felt that rush of time and keep calling myself to be present – a couple incidents have highlighted this to me – my kids go to school, and I have to be at the end of our driveway. Usually I’m flipping through mail or looking at a weed or whatever but recently I was looking right at the bus as it came down and in a second our eyes locked and his entire face lit up – it was that total acknowledgement – that deeper “she sees me” – it was completely precious. A little moment that just lifted me. Then last week, we picked up one of my children at a friend’s home, and my 5 yr old was with me. We parked in the driveway and started walking towards the front door and he automatically reached his hand into mine and it truly stopped me in my tracks because I thought wow, how long will he automatically reach for my hand, even when we aren’t crossing a street or in a parking lot. I am so glad I registered the feeling of his warm hand, gave a squeeze back, and felt that hand in mine before its too late and all I register is it’s absence, when he grows up in a few short years and won’t automatically reach for his mom’s hand. Be present, don’t drift – thank you for your message.

  4. A friend of mine has a sign that says, “Children need presence more than presents.” Your post did a wonderful job speaking to what I needed most today…a reminder to be present in my children’s lives every day. Thank you, Mary.

  5. Thank you for the reminder, Mary. You’ve been doing that for me a lot lately — so glad the Lord uses you in such a lovely way. 🙂

    S — your comment made me cry. I’m going to go hold my 5 year old in my lap . . . along with her 2 year old sister . . . should be interesting.

  6. Love this post!

  7. I haven’t checked your blog recently, but I’m glad I thought to today. “Drift” is a perfect way to describe what I do when I turn on the radio instead of engaging with my fun and chatty 4-yr-old, and your post reminded me how important it is to connect with my children. Certainly, having time for myself is important, but being more deliberate about it is key, I think.