As parents, it’s easy to get lost in our day, our obligations, our deadlines and just assume the kids will entertain themselves and each other. In the process we often miss golden opportunities to maintain a dialogue with our kids that no doubt we’ll be wishing we had 8-10 years from now when they’re older.
So never underestimate the power of turning off the computer or television about half an hour before your kid’s bedtime and sitting down with them to share a cup of tea or hot chocolate. And if you’re smart, you’ll eventually learn to just sit there, shut up, sip your tea and listen for twenty nine of the thirty minutes
Mind you, I’m not an expert by any means. Just a dad trying to learn how to raise three kids and maintain a positive relationship with all three of them. In doing so I typically notice something just about every day that I can do better. One of those things is listening. I’ve sucked at it for as long as I can remember and have to continually be aware of when I’m failing to give someone their proper minutes. And to a child of 7 or 10 or 14 or 45, I think sometimes that’s all they’re asking for. For someone to listen and to take their thoughts and opinions seriously.
About a year ago my daughters and I started having “tea time with dad” just before bedtime. It wasn’t anything extraordinary. Just a chance to end the day together and share a moment where the rest of the world was shut out. From time to time it now includes my son as well, although it’s usually hot cocoa not tea. Over time it’s turned into one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s especially special when it turns into a simple one on one sipping.
There are times I just sit and listen in amazement at the amount of “stuff” my kids have absorbed, even at
such a tender age, and just how much is racing around up there. I can’t help but smile and even laugh out loud at times as I witness how they process all of the information they’re capturing throughout the day. Their perspectives are truly amazing and eye opening as they provide insights into what’s important to them and how they view the world, their mom, their school, their neighbors, their bus driver, their friends and me.
My kids have a lot to say and there are times I ask them to keep their thoughts to themselves, especially when
those thoughts are hateful or demeaning. So providing them with a safe environment to open up, knowing
they’re not going to get a lecture or a rebuttal in response has proven to be a win / win on several levels.
As you’ve probably noticed if you read this blog on a regular basis, I would never divulge details about anything my kids share with me. But the content of our tea time discussions isn’t what’s important here. It’s the simple concept of shutting out the world for 30 minutes so that it’s just two or three minds connected and sharing thoughts, concerns, fears, dreams and opinions about music, clothes, pets, or whatever comes to mind. What you hear may not even make sense to you all the time. But I’m sure we don’t make sense to them all the time either. The point is maintaining a connection, letting them know they’re loved and appreciated and teaching them the power of sharing and listening. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn that and then some yourself.