I was talking to my sister the other day (I grew up an only child, but luckily got step-sisters when I was older). We haven’t seen each other in a while and were catching up on life. During our conversation, she said something that caught my attention:
“You know how in marriage you fall in love with your spouse over and over again. You go through ups and downs, but you have moments where you fall in love all over again. But your marriage can go through long periods when you don’t have moments like that. Well, I think our love for our kids is like that too. We can go through ups and downs with them as well but have moments when we fall in love with them all over again. The thing is I have been with (my child) so much this past year, doing the same thing a lot of the time, and things are so chaotic now that he’s back in school. I just don’t feel like I have had those falling in love moments in a while. I’ve really been reaching for them.”
I wish I could take credit for the above, but that was all my sister. My guess is a lot of us have been feeling that way. Parents are not designed to be their child’s parent, teacher, friend, entertainer, maid, and cook all at the same time. Yes, many children are back in school now, but things are still far from normal.
I push for couples to have date nights all the time. I also encourage parents to try and have 1:1 time with their children. However, I always concentrated on the fact that the child needs that time to feel connected. But you know what? Parents need that too. We need to carve out that space so we can fall in love with our children all over again.
Yes, I know we all love them but that is different than that wave of unexplainable joy and contentment when you look at someone. You CANNOT have that feeling with anyone—spouse, partner, child, or friend—if all your interactions consist of perfunctory tasks or to-do lists. This is important all the time, but it is especially important right now, as families have been on top of each other and taking on various responsibilities as compared to non-pandemic times. Basically, remember to have fun with them. Here are some small ideas that can go a long way:
- Play their favorite video game with them. Let them teach you about the rules and tricks of the game.
- Text them about their day. Yes, I know this is ridiculous but since this is the favorite mode of communication for many tweens and teens, sometimes you get more interaction.
- Have a family board game night. Your kids will probably whine about it, but I have also had these same kids tell me it was pretty fun in the confines of my office.
- Have an indoor picnic. Lay out a blanket and relax with pizza or Chinese food (actually, pretty much any type of food is available nowadays with DoorDash. Do you remember the days when pizza and Chinese were basically the only food that was delivered? Now I could even have a Starbucks coffee delivered to my house every morning). Everyone just seems to loosen up when laying around on the floor.
- Plan a taco night. This is an extension of the indoor picnic and an idea I got from my cousin. Get a pack of the large painting tarps and a few paper plates. Throw all the ingredients onto the plates and then put on the tarps. Dig in! Afterwards, pull the sides of the tarp up and throw everything away. Dinner clean-up is done!
- Let the kids be the “adults” for the night (within reason). They get to pick the dinner, family activity, and bedtime (obviously on a weekend and up to a certain point). Depending on their age, you can let them wear a tie or carry one of mom’s pocketbooks to help them feel more “adult.”
- If you have a child that loves to read, let them pick a book for both of you to read. Read a chapter every few days at the same pace as them. Then you can talk about what is going on in the story and take guesses about what is going to happen next.
- Get a beach ball. I got one for $1 at Target. Find a place in your house where you can play “volleyball” or simply “Keep the Ball off the Floor.” Make it interesting—whoever drops the ball the most has to clean up the dinner dishes or pick the place to get takeout that night.
- Go to a nearby playground and get on the slides or swings with them. I think adults often forget that we are still allowed to play too!
- Put on some music and have a dance party. Yes, you may get some eye rolls, but your kids may also take pity on your old dance moves and teach you the latest trend. Better yet, make a TikTok video with them, like a father I know.
- Take them with you and say no electronics in the car for today. A lot of kids will talk more when they are either riding around with you, or even taking a walk around the neighborhood. Basically, anywhere they don’t have to look directly at you.
- Have a movie night. Bean bags, blankets, popcorn, sodas, and box candy. Even with all that, you are still coming out a lot cheaper than the actual theaters.
Have fun and let yourself fall in love… again… and again… and again!