I smile to myself whenever I overhear “I love you” being quietly shared by a co-worker checking in on their child after school or leaving a message for a spouse at work. We spend a great deal of time away from those we care about so much, and every connection we make helps to maintain and grow the intimacy relationships need to thrive.
As parents, we need to be intentional about re-entry with our children after being separated during the day. One of the most significant factors in reconnecting at this time is to listen and to offer our child eye contact. So often direct eye contact with our children is reserved only for when we are making an emphatic point to them, usually a correction of some sort. But during just a casual conversation, (a child telling us about their day), we are often preoccupied with doing several other things at once.
Neufeld and Mate, authors of the book, Hold Onto Your Kids coined the expression “collecting your child”. I like the image that brings to my mind that we are bringing our child back into the circle and spirit of our own family.
Recently during dinner at the China Buffet, we sat next to a mom and dad and their two sons – one about 8 years old and the other one probably about 11 years old. From the conversation of the eager boys, I could tell this was definitely their attempt at re-entry – their time to “refuel”. The parents sadly were not responding – staring into space as the oldest one shared a pretty dramatic story about how the lights went out in the lunch room at school. (yes, I have big ears, but we were sitting very close to them- so close, in fact, it was all I could do to not respond to this young boy who so wanted to connect.)
His conversation began to take on a bit louder, sillier tone, I believe, to try to get some reaction even a negative one – which unfortunately happened.
Oh, what a missed opportunity for all involved.
When I got up to leave, I made a comment to the older boy that he had made quite a bit of progress using his chop sticks. He brightened right up – until his dad turned to me and apologized for his son annoying us during dinner.
I assured him I was not in the least annoyed and shared that our children were grown now and we miss and appreciate those non-stop chatty moments of the past.
I told him I thought he had a pretty creative storyteller there – curious and engaging. I saw his eyes soften – he looked at his son and smiled. His son smiled back.
I think this dad needed some refueling of his own.
“Families are made of humans, who by definition aren’t perfect. That’s okay. Love serves us better than perfect every time.” Dr. Laura Markham