Thursday, May 02, 2013

Teachable Moment: Staying Connected

Like I've done so many times in my mothering, I used to doubt whether I was making the right choice when I forced an answer out of my preschooler about her day when I picked her up. I wouldn't accept, "I don't know" or "I don't remember," or "Nothing." I would say, "Use the good brain God gave you and think of one thing to share with me." Lo and behold, she always could.

I felt mean half the time, like a communication tyrant. But I kept it up, and intentionally provided much time in our week for talking. I miss our days when I still had a napper in the house, and she and I would have an after school snack alone in the quiet, sitting across the table from one another and discussing princesses. There was only one reason I relentlessly pursued connection: I knew the day would come when she wouldn't need or want her parents as much. I wanted a bond to already exist, an openness, an availability that she knew she could rely on when her own bigger kid troubles arose.

So here we are, several years later. She is 10 and I am keenly aware that my relationships with my children are things for which I must fight. So many things threaten to deteriorate our connection.

Some things are mine to limit, like busyness, preoccupation, crafting, blogging. Some things are theirs that I must teach them how to limit. As a mom, it is critical that I teach them both the value of balance and that relationships come first.

If you couldn't tell, something prompted this post. Something happened that caused these issues to arise in my home and warrant a bit of training.

My girl - my introverted, beautiful, deep thinking, wise girl - loves reading. I know. It's a good thing, one that I've tried to foster just as intentionally as communication in our house. But you and I know even good things can become unhealthy when out of balance.

It may have something to do with recently moving; we have few commitments, extra time, and more free space in our lives to enjoy it. But she is suddenly, fully immersed in books. What started long ago as a before-bed habit has become an all day long obsession. She finishes one every couple days. She spends all her allowance on books. I've had to take her book away twice this month because it's gotten in the way of her obeying and completing her responsibilities. I have to call several times to come down to dinner. She is turning down all offers to play with her brother. And last night, after having a family time watching daddy play his first softball game with his new company, she was the only one not participating. Sitting in front of her in the car on the way home, I didn't realize it was because she was again reading, and then only wanted to discuss the characters in her book.

I cut it off, saying I would love to hear about her book, but that it wasn't the right timing. I explained that right then, we were trying to encourage dad, ask him questions and be happy for his new team. I said she needed to focus on real people right then. And at bedtime, I brought it up again, carefully explaining how any good thing can start to overshadow our relationships if we let it. She's old enough now for me to put the ball in her court a little, for me to encourage her to make different choices, rather than controlling them all. She took it all in, understanding the truth of my words, and hopefully realizing how indulging all one's desires and tendencies can be self-centered. 

I went on to explain that one of my biggest jobs as a mom before she leaves my house is to teach her how to be a loving person, and the only way she can learn to love is by being in functioning relationships. That's where she learns to say "You first," that's where she learns to resolve conflict, to be unselfish, to use her words when she is hurt, to be a good sport, to encourage someone feeling down, to be helpful...there are so many life lessons children need to learn that cannot be learned outside of the context of relationship. And I told her that.

When she was in preschool, I didn't know yet that she was a true introvert, like her daddy, needing alone time to rejuvenate, and erring on the side of independence. A good thing of course, when in balance with healthy relationships. And so with children like her, it takes even more training and patience to help her learn how to prioritize relationships, to stay connected and interdependent, while being sensitive to the fact that these things do not feel natural for her.

Even though I know God created my girl this way and I must provide for her needs for alone time, even though I know many of her strengths come out of her personality, I also know God created all of us to live in community, giving our hearts to others, and caring for those given to us. Relationship is where much of life happens. And for some of us, being in relationship is harder than it is for others.

If you know me, you know I have a great passion for books as well. They are valuable things in our home. But the good can sometimes be the biggest enemy of the best. Whether its technology, video games, cell phones, or books, as a mother, I am committed to teaching limits and fighting for the best. I need to model balance and healthy priorities, just as I attempt to teach them. And hopefully, my kids will know that maintaining my connection with God and with my family members is my greatest passion.

One day, when she's 17....maybe one day, she'll remember that.

And then come tell me about her day.



  1. I also have a 10 year old girl. This post is perfect timing. With my girl, I have to limit the amount of time she spends in the park with her friends. She could literally live there if I let her lol I have to remind her often about moderation and the importance of being present at home too. It's funny sometimes because even though I love that she prefers the park over video games, there still has to be a limit. Even with activities that are good ones.

  2. actually as a true introvert myself, i struggle with this constantly. i probably have always struggled with this, but i didn't realize how much until i had a kiddo (who incidentally is a true extrovert). i actually found this really convicting because i struggle with giving him the amount of relationship he needs. i never thought about the importance of building the relationship now so that he will know i'm open later. good stuff.

  3. Well, G is going on 10 herself and Im seeing changes in her already. Its scary and yet I know its part of life and growing up that these things will come.
    I love this post. So many parents either don't know how to connect with their children(perhaps bc they were never taught how themselves) or don't fight for it like they should.period. And I'm learning that I NEED to do that. These are critical years for sure.

  4. I was that girl who always had a book when I was your daughter's age; I felt like I was reading about me. I didn't realize until recently when I started college that I am in part an introvert, and reading this post helped me realize the two may have been connected. I think it's great that you've realized how you can fit her personality type; I didn't necessarily have that growing up and it might have helped! :)

  5. I'm an introvert, too. My relationships and interactions are usually fewer but deeper. I don't mind being alone, but I can also isolate myself pretty easily. Once I took an introverted friend on vacation... I was looking forward to having fun and interacting with her all weekend. She found a stack of Reader's Digests in the cabin and read them all weekend. I was so crushed and felt so ignored. So, yes, introverts like me need to be aware of how they interact with others. :)

  6. Your posts about you and your daughter fascinate me the most, I'm realizing. Probably because I find my relationship with my daughter to be so challenging and yet sweet, difficult and rewarding. I beat myself up more over how I interact with her than with my son. I love to hear about what you talk about with your girl, thanks for the real.

  7. oh girl, you are speaking right to this mama heart.
    thank you so much for sharing this.. i've noticed some small red flags with my daughter along these lines and now you've put words on what i've been feeling and thinking about. thank you so very much.