I remember when Buggle was about nine months old; he had a day when nothing would satisfy him but being held. I was teaching three days a week and was six months pregnant with Mouse and I did not have time to hold the baby all day!
Buggle wasn’t really a snuggler, either—and he wasn’t sick or teething—so I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. I talked it over with my husband that evening and I realized something: I thought I was interacting with Buggle a lot—feeding, changing, rocking to sleep, and training—but nearly all of my interactions were focused on getting him settled so I could do something else. He needed more. He needed me to hold and enjoy him for himself. My baby was becoming stressed because he wasn’t getting enough focused attention.
Over the years I have had to relearn this lesson many times. It is all too easy for us as busy mothers to fall into the trap of only having goal-oriented interactions with our children, not giving them the focused attention and obvious enjoyment that causes them to thrive.
We can so easily focus on cooking, cleaning, and, yes, schooling, that we lose sight of the people we are cooking, cleaning, and schooling for.
The fact is that our children were created to dwell with us in community and communion, and it is through our enjoyment of them that they begin to believe in a Creator who created them for His pleasure and enjoyment. When we focus on doing things instead of being with our children, we teach our children that God also focuses on doing instead of being, and we teach them that the way to acceptance is to be busy and accomplishing goals.
Now, I’m not saying that being busy or having goals is wrong—or even that it is a bad thing. I am saying that in our hierarchy of priorities, goals need to come second to people. As homeschoolers, we frequently speak of children as a blessing. That’s Scriptural and true.
My question is simply this: In the day-to-day busyness of life, can our children tell that they are blessings? Does our physical interaction with them make that clear?
I know that in our house, when things feel chaotic and the children seem to have developed a whole new level of naughtiness, I am usually busy focusing on my goals, and my interactions have ceased to include gentle speech, positive touch, and obvious enjoyment. I always seem to have plenty of time for correction and discipline, yet I have to constantly relearn the lesson that loving on my children—hugging them and speaking softly—means that I need to do much less training. Over and over, I let my desire to have things organized and done on time overwhelm the children’s need to be known and loved—and every time I find myself frustrated that they are “being so naughty”! Well, they are naughty sometimes, no doubt about that. But often I am frustrating and provoking them beyond their self-control by putting goals ahead of people, and I’m telling them by my actions—and sometimes my words—that I don’t have time for them.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, but I am learning to recognize the signs of too much correction and negativity, and to correct the matter as quickly as possible.
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones on living in a house full of young children, unending questions, and abundant grace. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and be sure to read her post here every other Tuesday!