How Do Kids Spell LOVE?
This blog has been a few months in the making. Mostly because I was trying to wrap my head around my thoughts and opinions for so long - I wrote, deleted, wrote again, and so on. But, I think I finally got it - and it took until after I had my second child to really understand.
How Do Kids Spell "LOVE?"
I saw this question on a church sign and I think it holds a lot of value. It's a heavy question, and definitely holds the ability to make you think.
When Brian and I were planning our lives after Caroline was born, sending her to daycare at such a young age didn't seem like our best option. Not only is infant daycare wildly expensive, but we didn't like the idea of another person "raising" our child. Fortunately, my career path was flexible. This is when I began freelancing and working remotely, so I could stay home with Caroline and be a stay-at-home mom and working mom.
But sometimes just being home isn't enough. Now that Caroline is older and is constantly on the go, just being home isn't enough. She requires a lot of attention, interaction, engagement, and activities to keep her growing mind busy. While I love doing fun things with her and introducing her to new experiences, juggling work and mom life can be tricky sometimes. But it's all about finding a balance that works for you.
And now that we have a second child that shares our attention, I find it even more crucial to be
present and have special one-on-one time with Caroline.
Caroline, and kids in general, don't measure a parent's love by how many toys they have, or how many vacations they take, or how much money their family has. Spending quality time with your kids is how they gauge love.
The Universal Love Language of Young Children
Just "being" around your kids is not enough - being present in the moment with your children is incredibly important to their own personal value and how they see themselves. If you spend your time at home always working on the computer or ignoring them to fulfill your own agenda or to-do list, kids will see themselves as second place to yourself. Kids need to come first. Making sure you take time to unplug and just be with your children is one of the most important gifts you can give them.
Think of it like a child's Love Language. According to Gary Chapman, there are Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. When children are young, they don't understand the importance of service or the complexity of words of affirmation. They receive gifts, but if they're like my daughter, they think every present comes from Santa. Touch is crucial to a child's development, but the most significant way they can comprehend a parent's love is by how much quality time they spend together.
Putting your child first is one of the (many) sacrifices that comes with being a parent. I turn down events, cancel plans at the last minute, and put off doing things with friends because I have to take care of Caroline and Delaney and I know that being wit them is more important than doing something for myself. When you are a parent, being selfless has to be second nature.
Intentional Parenting Equates to Quality Time
In an excellent article by the Institute of Family Studies, it states that children need regular interaction with both parents. The article really goes into a ton of detail and explains it better than I could ever imagine, but that kids yearn for consistent and dependable day-to-day experiences. It also goes on to state that there is danger in getting swept up in the chaos of daily life - sports practice, patterns of work and school, and even housework - make it difficult to truly live in the moment and be truly present with our children.
The suggestion? To change the things we have power over.
This means being intentional with our time and how we spend it. At home, this could translate to regular family meals, shared chores, or even leisure time, like family game nights or spending quality time together doing an activity. If we make an intentional effort to be physically and mentally more present, then it will manifest. But it must be intentional.
Kids will see this effort and it will be reflected through their attitude, contentment, and overall demeanor when they know their parents are spending quality time with them, and focusing solely on them. THIS is how kids translate love, and this is what young children know to be love.
An approach to creating intentional time could mean unplugging from social media over the weekend, or setting time limits for TV and movies each day. It could also mean that you leave work at the door when you get home so you aren't distracted.
"If in the end, we cannot be physically present as much as we—and our loved ones—want, we can still convey to them where our heart is. For where our treasure is, there our heart is truly present. People will feel this. And this in itself will be magical." John Cuddeback