Many parents I know feel horribly guilty about not having continuous family time. And that’s a shame. My husband and I could demand that the girls not have jobs or serve others so they’d be home every night. But we’re seeking to help them launch into life as productive young adults so insisting they remain insular would defeat that purpose. The daughter of a friend is an extremely gifted dancer – she’ll likely attend a fine arts high school in another state beginning this coming fall – and in order to hone her craft, she must attend long rehearsals several nights a week. They could forbid her from being away from home so much, but to what end? Parents sometimes have church or work meetings during typical family time.
It is, of course, vitally important that we prioritize our outside-the-home activities and not over-schedule ourselves or our kids. We absolutely need time together to grow and maintain strong family bonds, and we should carve out as much time as possible. But we need balance as well, realizing that our time together will sometimes be justifiably more limited than we might prefer.
The key to remaining unified is to be fully present when we are together.
When we go to a restaurant as a family, phones should remain silenced and put away so that real-life conversation can flow. We should keep the radio off and earbuds out during car rides together, when many significant conversations might develop. When a child comes to us hurting, we must put him – not a Facebook status update – first. It’s imperative that we sit down with our kids to build with Legos, play with dolls, play board games, and assemble puzzles; handing them devices loaded with educational apps is no substitute for our full presence with them whenever possible. Our kids – and our spouses – must, of course, have our physical presence, but they need our full attention along with our bodies.
Don’t guilt yourself about time you legitimately cannot be all together. Be realistic about the fact that you’ll sometimes all be home but each doing his or her own thing. But choose to be mindful, aware, and intentional about making space to be fully present with your spouse and each child in some way every day. Oftentimes it’s the little moments that count most, but we need to have those moments in order to make them count.
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