What was the last thing your son or daughter did that simply amazed you? You know what I’m talking about. I’m referring to those moments that melt your heart and magically transform life from night to day. These are the moments when you feel like the kids really appreciate you and maybe, just maybe you have done something right.
I experienced one of those moments the other day and the situation surrounding the “hallmark parent/child moment” got me thinking, “How often do these moments present themselves and I miss them or I lock them out altogether?”
The Morning Ritual
I have a kind of funny morning ritual. My wife thinks I’m a little weird and maybe a lot of you will take her side on this. Some people complain about how much time their wives spends in the bathroom getting ready in the morning. I can’t make that complaint considering my morning routine. I love the sound of the running shower water and will spend a great deal of time in the morning, reading, studying, praying, relaxing and meditating in our bathroom. The water conservation folks out there would not be very happy to know how long I let the water run in the morning but this routine helps me relax, learn and grow each day. Each morning I will go into the bathroom, shut and lock the door, turn on the shower and then I dig into my personal education. Something happened a couple weeks ago that made me reevaluate many of my daily routines. I forgot to lock the door.
My second son Eli came strolling through the bathroom door without knocking. I was reading Rachel Stafford’s book, “Hands Free Mama” with a blanket draped across my lap. He came in, sat down next to me and cuddled right in like that spot was made for him. I stopped reading and said, “Hey bud, how’s it going? Did you sleep well?” Then he said, “Yeah, I just wanted to come spend some time with you, just the two of us.” It almost moved me to tears sitting there on the bathroom floor.
He didn’t want to interrupt. He didn’t want to demand anything from me. He wasn’t upset. Amazingly enough, he wasn’t even wiggly. He just wanted to be with me.
This experience got me asking myself questions. I thought, “I wonder how many days he had tried to come in to sit by me but the door was lock. I wonder how often I had locked him out and missed out on these awesome moments with Eli without even knowing I was missing them?”
Had I missed the cuddles?
Had I missed the smiles?
Had I missed the moments that I’m always longing for and not even known it?
Indeed, I had. These simple questions about my morning routine didn’t stop there. My mind kept going and asking, “Are there other times that my kids have tried to reach out to me and I locked the door? Do they turn the knob and I go on my merry way without ever noticing?”
There are so many things that distract us today and it’s easy to separate ourselves and fail to see the moments that are just waiting on the other side of the door. I’m certainly not just talking about literally leaving your bathroom doors unlocked. Other than my morning routine, I still lock the door when I use the restroom. When I’m going to the bathroom, I’m not interested in moments, I’m interested in privacy. But I am learning to metaphorically unlock the doors that divide me from my children.
From all of this came a small but significant decision. I would unlock the doors of the bathroom in the morning and unlock the doors of my heart throughout my days. I would increase my efforts to put away my phone when I walked through the doors. I would focus on conversation, stories and connection at dinnertime instead of focusing on dishing up dinner plates and retreating to listen to myself chew my food. I would seek opportunities to be together and connected rather than ways to escape the responsibility and effort of connection.
The greatest thing happened the day after I decided to unlock the doors. Eli came back again to sit with me and the day after that too. Out of 10 days since I first forgot to lock the door that fateful morning, he came to visit me and “just be with me” 6 of those days. Our bond has been stronger and as I have sought him, he has sought me.
Sometimes we don’t even know what we’ve been missing. We all have our own “locked doors.” For some it may be literal, for others maybe it is our withdrawal to television, video games, or other media. It may be work or even an attitude that separates us. The challenge is to realize that your children are waiting on the other side of that locked door, longing to be with you and share those moments with you that you long for. Our task is to identify the locked doors and simply unlock them. So, unlock them, open your heart and start enjoying more of the experiences that you want.
Question: What are your locked doors? How can you unlock the doors and more fully enjoy your child?
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