One of my favourite 2016 reads has undoubtedly been Alexandra Kuykendall’s book “Loving my actual life.” As I tucked into it for the second time this year over the summer, I came across a little nugget that I’d not noticed during my first read through. (My emphasis in bold):
“My friend Meghan says, Life is big in the litle.” She’s from Tennesse, so when I first heard her say that I thought it was some Southern phrase like “The Big Easy.” But no, it’s more literal. She explains, “It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it.”
In other words, we can be cleaning a kid’s room … and have meaningful conversation or just a little fun. I’m the one who is often setting the tone in the wrong direction. My frustrations creep in. Why don’t these kids take care of their things? or Who do they think is going to clear up after them? ME? The potential shared time is still shared. It’s just not fun.
It’s not about having time; it’s about making time with the right attitude. Right here in the little.
Alexandra Kuykendall, 2016
This really hit me between the eyes. Uncomfortably. It got me thinking – how many mundane every day moments with my kids and husband do I mess up with my own attitude problem? I’m embarrassed to realise I can think of a handful without much effort. Like when it’s time to get my eldest hair done and I tell her off for wriggling, instead of cuddling her close and whispering she’s beautiful and that I love her. Or tutting and huffing when changing my youngest’s nappy and refusing to cooperate again, instead of taking two minutes to turn it into a game that makes her giggle. Or when pack up time comes, at the end of every day, and I turn into a heartless drill sergeant barking orders to my toddlers as we attempt to tidy away a days worth of play debris.
I’ve long realised that the difference between a good day and bad day in my family’s lives is often my own attitude.
Like it or not, I set the tone and shape the atmosphere in my home.
But maybe I need to think smaller.
It’s not about good days, it’s about good moments and minutes with the people I love. It’s about prioritising connection over productivity, about stopping to see the world through lenses other than my own and coming alongside them as best I can, instead of trying to passively aggressively bully everyone into submission.
All of this reminded me of Danny Silk’s theory about obedience being of secondary importance as a parenting goal to maintaining a healthy, meaningful connection with our kids hearts. In his incredibly insightful book “Loving our Kids on Purpose, Silk walks argues that “it is easy to mistake obedience for a good relationship. As long as the child is doing what you say, your relationship seems fine. The moment obedience is threatened, the relationship is threatened.”He points out that in Luke 10:27, Jesus promoted relationship over rules by responding to the Pharisees question about what the most important commandment was with the statement, “Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself.”
Love. Not lists, ticks, prompt obedience, perfect timings, or perfectly turned out kids. Love.
I came to the uncomfortable conclusion this summer that I had lost my way a little on the obey vs. connect front. For whatever reason, I’d forgotten that every minute with my little ones is a gift, and that it’s my joy and privilege to look for ways to make these minutes count in the ways that truly matter.
So I’ve set myself some attitude adjustment homework:
- Remember my children are children, and that they will be childish! There needs to be grace for that in my heart and attitude towards them.
- Laugh and smile more, and stop taking myself so seriously.
- Give myself permission to be late or to run late with routines and home rhythms. Military precision is not always possible with two under four and a pretty significant bump on board.
- Look out for opportunities to connect in the unlikely moments and opportunities that present themselves in my day
- Turn things into a game. Funny walks to the car, races up the stairs before bed time, noisiest tooth brusher competitions… shifting the focus from getting things done to having fun is a sure fire way to lighten the mood
- Listen. Attentively. Sometimes the things my kids say or notice blows me away or cracks me up. It saddens me to remember that I often miss these nuggets as I blitz my way through to another job done or tick ticked.
How do you make everyday moments into special time with your kids at home? What frustrations push your buttons most? Do pop your comments into the box below, I’d love to hear from you!