You’ll know it immediately when it happens.
It’s that magical moment when you and your kids are locked in together. You aren’t so much watching your kids. Or helping out with your kids. You are, in fact, joining them in play. There’s a significant difference.
I hit this wonderful, synchronized stride recently with my kids and it made me reflect a bit on the mindset that I can easily slip into when hours at work are finished. How often do I look at those few hours containing dinner, play, maybe a quick errand, reading, and bedtime prep as a checklist to rip through? Too frequently, I confess. My desire for productivity and efficiency can take over – I carry a mindset that’s often useful in the workplace to a space it really doesn’t belong.
Now, I certainly know that some evenings require structure: there are projects to complete, errands to run, and activities to attend. Sometimes there are things that need to happen, but sometimes…there just aren’t. More often than not, my post-work hours need fewer mental checklists and structure (I mean, within reason—bedtimes are certainly still important) and more openness to joining the kids in what they want to do. And when that happens, it’s remarkable how much I’ve enjoyed street hockey with 3- to 6-year-olds (note: your shins will thank you for wearing some form of protection), bike rides around the block at <2mph, and watching toy cars zip around a looped track over and over and over and over.
It might be tempting to think that my children need that sort of time with me and that’s undoubtedly true. But sometimes I think that I need those moments even more. Those times slow me down, help me to relax, and remind me of the simple joys that come from the privilege of being a dad.
Though these times are far from being formulaic, there are a few things that have helped me find and get back to this sweet spot:
- Ditching my phone;
- Not being the one to determine when a current activity should end;
- Giving away the control for the evening (again, within reason here) – genuinely ask for input on what the evening should entail, then dive in fully;
- Spending a bit of time after my work day has ended to take care the evening’s responsibilities (ie. paying a few bills, following up on personal phone calls, etc.);
- Intentionally reminding myself throughout an evening that the time I’m spending with my kids is the best use of time for those hours.
Whether helped by these suggestions or others, may you soon truly join your kid(s) in their fun and play. too
Don’t miss this helpful perspective on losing the phone and being present with your kids. And if you’re looking for an activity or two, check out indoor bowling or a rousing Pass the Pigs competition.