The room is bright green now and it’s been so long since I lived in it, I can’t remember what the color used to be. I remember being royally annoyed at the pitter patter of feet above in the kitchen. There must have been no insulation between that floor and my ceiling. I remember sneaking out the ground floor window one night at 17, not to go anywhere, simply to say I’d done it. No one needed to know I only sat in the cold bark for a while right? I laid on my bed in that room for hours upon hours talking till sometimes 3 AM to a boy. It was eons before texting and email. It was the days of the face to face or at least the real talking over a phone, probably one with a cord. I have no clue what we spoke of all that time or how we got up the next day for school. But somewhere in the talking, in the time spent, love unfolded and twenty years later, here we are – still unfolding.
How we have an almost twelve year old, I don’t know but I knew this summer I wanted some face time with her before the hustle and bustle of fall took off. I shared with her some of my thoughts and worries from that age, told her why it was wonderful to be a girl and to get to grow up into a woman. How we have this incredible opportunity, to get to be givers of life through our attitude, heart, words and eventually our body. Something amazing happens when you get to be alone with just one child and with the only intention being time together. No grocery list or agenda. No phone on the table beeping or buzzing away. No other siblings to share the time with. No distraction, only purpose. As they nearly always do, they know. They sense that the time is set apart and they enter in in a different way.
Once I was back home, we were talking one night about how to facilitate depth of relationship with each of our children, how to be keyed in to every one and building something solid so that as they grow and the stakes are ever higher, the losses greater and the dreams bigger – they know we’re right here. We agreed there really is only one way to do that. Time. Shared time, set apart with the purpose of listening and loving. Our six are wildly different. Unique and one of a kind. So naturally, it wouldn’t look the same for each one. We decided to each take an hour a week and each rotate through the oldest five kids. Sounds small? Well maybe. But let me tell you it was hard to find a regular one hour spot to set aside weekly where the other of us would be home to be with kids.
Our third born, he’s a dreamer, an artist and the most easy going kid of our brood. His name means peaceful and while he may be all boy and energetic as the rest of them, it really does describe his demeanor. He’s very different from me. He’s not book-crazed. He is meticulous with his pencil but not with his room. So when I asked him tonight for his choice of a spot for our hour, he said McDonald’s. And I fought every urge to say “Gross, no!”. I simply said yes and off we went. He asked if he could splurge and have two $1 cheeseburgers, I said yes. Then he asked if we could sit outside by the (dumpy, old) play place. Again, I was like really, are you kidding me? but I said a smiling “sure!”. He told me where to sit so I could watch him slide. I left my phone in my purse and sipped my smoothie. He was over-the-moon happy to have my undivided attention while he played. No one else was out there, so I thought I’d see if I could fit in the tunnel.
Oh glory. If you haven’t squeezed yourself through the play tubes at McDonald’s for decades, it’s about time. He shrieked “I can’t believe you’re doing this mom! I can’t believe it!’. He led me around and told me the best way to go down the slide. Upside down and backwards. Alrighty then, of course I want to do that. He said he’d catch me if I was going to fall off the edge. So reassuring. Once I was safely down the slide, my eight year old darling of a boy literally jumped up and down squealing in glee. He then did three somersaults on the padded floor to further express his delight. I laughed out loud and climbed back up for another round. Why in the world not?
We headed for the library to get his books on hold and he grabbed my hand in the parking lot and said with great fervor, “I llllllllloooove you mom. So much.” Mission accomplished. Though it didn’t look like what I expected, it met his needs and filled his love cup right up. And that’s the whole point.
Building meaningful relationships with my kids doesn’t have to be complicated or involve ten steps or a how-to book or an agenda. It really only hinges on one thing. Am I going to show up? Like really show up…put the phone away, turn the mental to-do-listing off, pay attention, listen with the heart, engage completely in the time spent together. When we do that, the dividends are beyond measure.