Raising children is not for the faint of heart. Experts upon experts have researched the most effective methods and strategies for families and professionals, giving us tools to use when raising children from their most dependent state to their most independent selves. Along with the extensive amount of literature available, opinions are spoken from every side, inviting us to consider what we believe and the convictions we hold when it comes to raising children.
By the time we are adults, we are skilled in the art of multitasking. I was 31 years old when I became pregnant with my first son. Responsibility and hard work were instilled deeply in me from my childhood. Expectations from others and eventually myself had taught me that free time was a luxury to be enjoyed only after the work was complete.
Even as write this today, I struggle to remain seated. My house is quiet, and I am alone. The laundry has stopped and is waiting to be transferred to the dryer. Fortunately, there is not an alarm reminding me of that fact! The sun is shining on my back, and I am curled up in my husband’s comfy leather chair. The couch next to me is covered with pillows and blankets that are beckoning me to fold them and put them away. Papers, books, remotes, DVD’s, headphones, and cups are splattered across any horizontal surface while my husband’s shoes and workout equipment take up residence on the floor. My eyes see the messiness of the room, and my body feels tension as I am tempted to clean before allowing myself the privilege of enjoying the quiet space to do something for me.
This tension is not exclusive to me. My guess is that most of us feel this to some extent on a regular basis.
We are trained from an early age that in order to get, we have to give.
Becoming a first-time mom rocked my ideas about responsibility and hard work. Suddenly, the most important task at hand was providing and sustaining life for this precious little one who had been given to me. Along with meeting basic needs, my highest priority was connection. I wanted to know everything about him, and I wanted him to know me. Although I tried to sleep when he would sleep, I struggled to rest completely, knowing that there were tasks to get done if I wanted to fully enjoy the moments he was awake.
As with everything, the seasons change, and our focus shifts. It is impossible to remain in that space with our children, and yet some days my heart longs for the simplicity of the early weeks and months of their lives. Today, they are their own little people. They still depend on us for basic needs—for safety, for connection—yet they are independent as well. Life demands that we all be somewhat productive if we are going to manage work, school, and the activities of our days.
As a family, we recently began therapy together. Some of the sessions are just for my husband and me to talk about parenting while other sessions involve separate time with each of the boys. Darin and I sat there during the initial intake while the counselors asked their questions. Tears often filled my eyes as we talked about the scenes and the stories of the last eight years for Wyatt and the last five for Sawyer. So much is revealed in our storytelling, and my heart could hardly contain the emotions as we recounted all the moments that added up to bring us here.
Here—a place where we need help to address the disconnect we have as a family. We have been living in a combat zone for so long that we need caring eyes and ears to come in and teach us how to re-engage.
Walking out of the office on that first day, we were given one simple task: Set fifteen minutes aside every day for each of us to have one-on-one time with the boys. We were told to label it “special play time” and to let the child direct whatever we play. Sounds easy enough, right?
Although not a difficult task, finding the time between work and school, homework and meals, cleaning and cooking, baths and nighttime has been rather tricky. My body has grown accustomed to working nearby on separate tasks while my kids play, and though it is sometimes necessary, I am disconnected by my responsibilities. I struggle with an inability to be fully present as they direct a play time with me. I have begun to realize how we, as parents, lose the simple art of play with our children.
Connection is said to be the key to greater emotional regulation. Connection. Oh my goodness, how simple. I’ve made it about so much more. I’ve made it so complex. I wonder…What could happen if I set aside my need for productivity to really play with my child? What would I learn about him if I let him have all of my attention and creativity for at least fifteen minutes a day? What will it do inside of him? How will it change our family? Where else do I need to be reminded of the value of true connection?
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here. &
Thank you for your honesty in a struggle so many parents have…even with adult children. I love your heart for your boys! Big hugs dear B❤️
Oh Deanna, thank you for your words and for identifying even with adult children…you have a mighty big heart for your boys too. Love you!
The irony is, I am reading this as a five-minute break from cleaning in a space that God gloriously opened up this morning. The tyranny of the urgent calls it seems. Perhaps it is not a call from the outside, but rather driven from the inside. I am stopped and challenged by your words this morning. Thank you
I love the irony and the glorious opening of space…so very necessary too. Thank you for your words-tyranny of the urgent, and a call driven from the inside. Yes, exactly. I love that you were stopped and challenged, thank you for sharing.
Dear Bethany, as always, my heart is found and heard in the quiet reading of your wise entries. Oh my goodness!!! The pressure!!! Even after children are grown and gone. My life is closer than ending (age wise…not health wise at the moment..PTL). It is time to embrace the goodness without pressure. Things will need to get done all the way to my grave. I better begin now in the act to presence with others more fully (and myself) so to not miss out on the joy. May I learn to leave the clutter away from my mind and to do list more and more. Thank you for this challenge.
Thank you Becky for your words on how my writing is held with you. Time to embrace the goodness, without pressure. Amen! What a picture to think about all that “needs” to get done even up to the grave. Thinking of you as you leave the clutter first in your mind and in your world.
Blessings on your holy play and the gift of extending it to your family and yourself.
Oh Lindsay, thank you for your blessings! What a phrase…thank you.
I love this, Bethany. Thank you for your generous vulnerability into your life and your home…I love your boys…and they are all boy. I know you will continue this fight for your life and your family. Blessing to you💗MJ
I love that you love my boys! Thank you for loving me and supporting me in this journey.
B – Your thoughtfulness and wisdom always invite me to more. I love when you said, “Connection – how simple. I’ve made it about so much more. I’ve made it so complex.” Your words came the day after I tucked Tommy into bed and he told me that it felt like it had been a really long time since we had played together. Thank you for sharing what re-engaging has looked like for your family. I love how you are always fighting for more for all of you – so much beauty in that.
I played a board game with Tommy tonight and he thanked me for playing with him when I tucked him in tonight. Connection – it really is that simple. So thankful for the reminder.
Thank you dear Jenn. Oh, I love the picture of you playing together…big smiles on my face. Thank you for sharing.
I appreciate the work you and Darin are willing to do, sitting and story telling to a counselor. Much love to you my friend, many prayers.
Thank you Jaimi…prayers and love are always welcome 🙂
I’ve saved this article in my inbox so I can come back to it to remind me to be present and connect with my boys. To give them my heart, not just my hands. This morning it’s brought some freedom to my heart, thank you.
Also, I’ve really connected with your writings about your boys. I have a boy who has some similar traits that you’ve described and it’s such a relief to hear your process to love kids who are outside the box. Thank you for fighting for their hearts and your own as you parent, it encourages me to do the same.