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Time Well-Spent


By Paula Miller

"Mom, it's your turn."

"Huh? Oh, all right. Um, I'll move here."

"You can't jump my checkers like that until you've been kinged."

"Oh, that's right. Um, I'll move here then." Fingers tap impatiently against a jean-clad leg. "Hurry, it's your turn now."

A young brow furrows with concentration.

"Hurry up Cody, I've got to finish the dishes."

"Okay." His black checker jumps two red in a row and he grins. "Gotcha."

"Huh? Is the game over? Okay. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."

I'll humbly admit that the dialogue you just read is one taken from my own livingroom. Not long ago this was a normal scene. My son, Cody, would beg me to play a game with him. Usually his request was followed by one of my excuses; I had dishes to do, a baby to feed, and a pile of laundry that needed to be folded. But, eventually his continuous requests would wear me down and I'd give in.

"Okay, I'll play a game with you, but it can't be a long one."

So there went Cody, skipping with excitement to the game cabinet to agonize over which game he could pick that I would agree to. Finally he pulls out checkers and spends the next few minutes tediously setting up the pieces while I'm running around the house.

Then we play the game. His little mind turns wheels and learns the art of jumping and defeating his adversary. My mind is jumping also, from one topic to another, while my foot taps impatiently on the carpet. To my relief the game ends quickly and my preoccupied mind can be inhibited with more important thoughts.

Now, if you were Cody, what would you remember from that game? A mother who smiled and teased, taking a relaxing half hour to spend time with only you, or a mother whose mind was so busy elsewhere that you'd be lucky if she knew what game you were playing?

I am an at-home-mom whose been with my children nearly every minute of every day since the doctor announced their arrival. Like most mothers, I found that motherhood throws us into a world we aren't always prepared for.

The kind neighbor lady can tell us a million times that children are accidents waiting to happen, but until the day our own child is rushed to the emergency room with a broken bone and we've added a half dozen new gray hairs to our head, we just smile and nod without the slightest idea. And so it is with a child. The memories and attitudes children have are learned and observed from their own experiences.

So, who do your children observe? Who do they learn from?

You.

Spending time with our kids isn't hard to do, but making sure it's quality time is another story. Unlike the example of the checkers game, our time with our children needs to be focused--not preoccupied.

So, what can we do? First and foremost we have to remember that our children are gifts from God. We've been given the responsibility to raise them in a fashion that teaches them values, morals, and responsibilities, and we can't do that if we slack in the quality of time we spend with them. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

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1. When I'm with one of my children, whether it's driving in the car, playing a game, or walking home from the store, do I spend that half an hour in my own little world or do I ask him about his?

2. When my child is excitedly telling me about his day, do I answer in a monotone 'Uh, huh' while I'm busy flipping through the mail?

3. How many times in the past month have I specifically offered to spend one-on-one time with each of my children? Have I taken one daughter at a time and planned an all day shopping excursion with just her? Have I taken my five-year-old to the park, just me and him? Have I picked up my two-year-old and snuggled in the recliner to read The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh without interruption?

When the light dawns for you like it did for me, you suddenly realize that all you are teaching your children is how to be impatient, how to think only of themselves, and how to weasel out of doing something they don't want to do. What a great example we've become, huh? Fortunately, and by God's mercy, we don't have to end on that note.

Today is never too late to start again. Show your children that they are important to you. Ask about their day. Take time to play with them, and do the things they enjoy; leave your laptop and your cell phone at home. They learn and observe from our actions, and these will be the actions they carry on to their own children.

Anyone for a game of checkers?

© Paula Miller
Paula Miller is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to three boys. She has written for the homeschooling market, Mommy Tales, and has a children's story published in Mistletoe Madness. She, her husband, and their boys live in the midwest. Visit her site at paulajmiller.com.

 

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