Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when parents realize that relationships are more important than being efficient. Parents are some of the busiest people in the world, and the most efficient parents have long to-do lists. Some people, like people, feel more efficient when seeing to-do tasks with a check beside them.
I was a busy young mother of five children under the age of eight years. I know what it is like to never complete a task! Yet, my children share important memories with me. My oldest daughter saved the “J Book” that we made before she was old enough to go to kindergarten. We found pictures of things that started with the letter J (the first letter of her name), cut them out, and glued them in a homemade book (pieces of paper sewn down the middle and folded over). Apparently, that simple task was very meaningful to her.
My oldest son remembers coming home from school and not being able to find an important piece of paper in his backpack. We walked the quarter of a mile back to the school looking for it. We did not find the paper, but my son understood that he was important enough to me for me to look for his paper. We also had a short lesson on the importance of closing his backpack before he left the school.
Another daughter remembers going shopping with me and stopping to get corn dogs. We did not have the money to go out to eat very often, so she knew that this was a special treat. This same daughter taught me an important lesson in relationships when she said to me, “Mama, listen to me with your eyes!” She was very young, maybe two years old, but she knew the importance of having someone’s full attention.
Jim Daly posted a short article titled “Good Parenting Usually Isn’t Efficient.” He shares a short story about a busy father who took his son fishing. They each made a journal entry about the day. The boy considered it “the most glorious day” of his life while the father considered it “a day wasted.” The son read the father’s statement many years after it was written. The author asks a very important question: “Can you imagine how his father’s assessment of the day must have pierced [the son’s] heart? Daly concludes his article with these paragraphs.
It’s not that to-do lists aren’t important or useful. It’s that sometimes the best thing to do is to take the time to truly connect with our children.
The best moms are those who sometimes take a step back from all those items begging to be completed to spend time reading with their kids. The best dads are those who understand they have to stop looking down at their smartphone and start looking into their kids’ eyes.
Those special moments of togetherness are what kids will remember and cherish. It’s the times of carefree laughter, learning and affection that will stay with them and let them know they’re valued.
I remember making the book with my daughter, I remember taking the walk back to school with my son, and I remember getting corn dogs with a younger daughter. Yet, I had no idea at the time that we were forming wonderful memories for the children. These memories help my children to know that they are important to me.
There are times when we must put down the to-do list and work on relationships. Being a task-oriented person and one who gains self-satisfaction from crossing off tasks, I still must remind myself that relationships are more important than tasks to be accomplished. When we strengthen relationships, we strengthen our families, communities, and nations.