I’ve been ignoring my kids a little more than usual this summer. The last two weeks, in particular, have been hectic: I’m working my normal job as a ghostwriter, working with Kristin to get MacDermott Method off the ground, and helping coordinate a philanthropic event I committed to.
As a result, the kids are sitting around the house during their summer break.
I would rather be taking them to the beach, vacationing, or sitting poolside with them. I will probably have some time to do that later in the summer. For now, though, I feel some guilt. More than once, I have thought that I am not being as good of a mom as I would like to be.
It occurred to me this morning that I have failed to “wrap words around the situation.”
One of the pillars of great conversations is leveling with kids—giving them words that express the reality of what they are observing.
At some point or another, we will all be “too busy” to give our kids what we want to give them.
This might happen because of a major work project or something personal that requires our attention. It might happen because of some other obligation that temporarily takes precedence. It might happen because putting food on the table takes priority over going to the beach, and we simply cannot afford to be there.
For whatever reason, there will be times when all of us need to tend to something else—temporarily or for long periods of time.
It doesn’t feel good, but addressing it and “wrapping words around it” helps accomplish two things:
We can tell our kids what our intention is. I would much rather be spending the summer on vacation with my kids, but by working as hard as I’m working, I am creating a better life for my children. They should know that this is my intention, and that it is temporary. It might offset any story they have cooked up in their mind about why I seem to be ignoring them.
Wrapping words around a situation brings it into the light. We cannot ignore things that have been vocalized. When I put things on the table for everyone to see, I create awareness of it. It forces me to consider things like: Do I want to keep doing this? Am I continually letting my kids down for something that doesn’t have any upside? Is this working, or do I keep having the same conversations without seeing any results?
It bears noting that sometimes, we don’t have much choice, and the situation is permanent.
Many, many families have financial struggles that prevent them from spending as much time as they want with their children on an ongoing basis. They miss basketball games (if they can afford the cost of a basketball program), birthday parties, school performances, and meals with their families—and they do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.
When this is the case, it is even more important to be honest with your children, and to have the conversation regularly.
Try something like this:
“It occurs to me that a lot of the families you know are able to spend more time with their children than I can spend with you. It’s not because I love you any less. I work hard and miss seeing you because the alternative is that your life would not be as good as it is now. We might not seem as fortunate as most families, but the truth is that some kids do not have parents who love them. Some kids do not have food. Some can’t go to school and learn how to read. Some don’t have warm clothes or a home with electricity. I am proud that you have all of these things, and I am going to keep working this hard to make sure that you have them throughout your childhood. I’m going to remind you of this often because it is easy to look around and see everything that you don’t have, so I want to remind you of what you do have.”
It can feel heartbreaking to be unavailable to your kids, but when you carefully select the words you use to wrap around the situation, you can give them the gift of perspective. This way, they will know that your heart is always with them, even when they cannot be.
The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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