Time is a rare commodity, but there is no shortcut to building healthy relationships. Families need to understand the value and importance of spending time together.
As the Director of an organization involved in family counseling and enriching marriages, I travel all over the world to conduct marriage and parenting seminars. This, ironically, keeps me away from my own wife and three young boys a lot.
A few years ago, my wife and I made a New Year’s resolution to spend more quality time with our children after my wife had expressed very strongly, but gently, the idea that my responsibility and hers start within our own home. She said, “I have heard you go up on stage and say that you are an absentee father and that you feel guilty about it. Stop feeling guilty and start practicing what you desire to happen.” We decided that every Monday evening would be set apart for just our children and ourselves.
I realized that I don’t want my kids to say when they are grown up that their dad was only a teacher and preacher for others and never a good father to them. That’s the last thing that I would want to hear from my children. God gave children to parents and not to schools, grandparents or maids, to do the parenting. It’s my duty to bring up my children and I need to be there for them and not anyone else. This must be a priority.
To have quality time with children, some women have consciously chosen to stay home in order to be more available for their children. I know of families who have made a conscious choice for one spouse to work full time and the other to work part time outside their home in order to be available for their children. I also know of fathers who have taken less demanding jobs to be at home if their wives have a full-time job.
My position as the Director of an organization can always be replaced by others, but no one can replace my position as my wife’s husband and my children’s father. So my position or titles in the office cannot and should not take away the fun, humor, and the joy my children deserve. Going out as a family for a break or spending quality time with them, will only happen if we make that a priority and include it into our weekly schedule. If your time with your children and family is kept as an optional extra, it’s not being fair to your position and responsibility that God has given you as father or mother, husband or wife.
A few weeks ago a father brought his teenage son to me for an informal counseling session. His son, according to him, had become rebellious, wouldn’t talk to him, just wanted to spend time with his friends or with his online games. The atmosphere in the home was affected and as a father he felt his son needed counseling to change this behavior.
As I spoke separately with the young boy, he began to slowly open up and said that his relationship with his father was strained as he felt his father had no time for his family. He worked in the Gulf and when he came for a vacation, all he did was spend time with his friends or parents. He spoke of one incident when his father actually walked out of the house in a rage and blamed him for returning to the Gulf. He didn’t hear from his father for eight months. It was during this time that he began to get depressed and the only thing that filled the void for him was online games and television. I then asked him to write down what he truly desired when it came to his family and home and he shared that all he wanted was his father to be at home and spend time with them; for them to be a normal family.
When his son shared what he had written, his father was extremely shocked to know his son’s longing to have a relationship with him. The father who had brought his ‘rebellious son’ whom he had ‘lost all hope on’ then asked his son to forgive him and left from our session with a resolution to spend time regularly with his son and daughter.
I’m glad that my wife could put that sense into me early enough and now my younger son who is 10 years old still loves Monday evenings. He wishes that every evening was Monday evening! Is your spouse and children excited to come home because you are at home that day? Do your children love coming back to your home because it’s a place of fun and joy? One needs to deliberately include fun and humor in family life.
As I was writing this article, I had the idea to put this theory to the test and see what my children had to say about it. So at the end of last year—2014, I spent time alone with my children and asked each of them what they would like me to do differently in 2015. My youngest son quickly said, “I want the family time to continue in a proper way”. Our family time was irregular for a few weeks while we had to move houses and my travel schedule. So he is looking forward for a great time again. My second son, Ankith said “It’s truly a fun time and I really now know the skills of all my family members; and then smiling, he added, “Papa you don’t know how to throw a ball properly.”
So how would you rate your home? As a boring place or an exciting place for the family to return to everyday with longing for one another? What can you do today to be there for your children and bring humor and fun into your home?