I heard a stat the other day that opened my eyes. It was that, on average, parents spend just 6 focused minutes per day with their kids. That doesn’t count all the hand waving and directives (clean your room, make your lunch, brush your teeth) that come with everyday life. I would go so far that our spouse is in a similar time range for most as well. With all that goes on for working parents and partners –work, cleaning, cooking, lawn mowing, homework, laundry — presence, and focused attention, to kids and wife take effort. We often come home and after work and all that action, we simply want to zone out and decompress.
After dinner and outside playtime has ended, and we’re unwinding, I see this frequently. Wife is on her tablet. Son playing video games. Daughter watching Netflix. Me in a book. We’re not spending time as a family. We aren’t focused on each other, but instead in four different virtual worlds. How much better would we be if we were to play a board game or went around the room and talked about the best part about our day and actually conversed? Our kids and spouse, without conscious effort, sometimes blend into the landscape of our lives like furniture. Yeah, kids demand attention, but we can provide attention without being present or really engaging. It’s a strange dichotomy, but it’s real.
So I ask you, and me, to try and engage more and increase this 6 minutes to more than that on a daily basis. It may mean less zoning out time or time to ourselves, but it will increase that connection to others. It is the foundation that your relationships will continue to grow upon. Wrestle and play with your kids. Play action figure or legos or dolls with them. Play a game with the dog and them. Do like we do and schedule a movie night once a week, eat popcorn, and snuggle as a family. They are really only young for a short time. I treasure each day and how passionately and sincerely both my kids (7 and 9) tell me they love me and hug/kiss me each night before bed or when I say bye to them in the morning. But I know I’m just as guilty as you all about being present and not maximizing these moments.
For our spouse, sometimes it takes a little more effort to snap both of you out of the roommate mode that inhabits much of our day-to-day interactions. That’s what Athol Kay’s 10 second kiss accomplishes. It forces you and your spouse to put down that phone, or get work and kids and the laundry list of “to do” list out of your minds, and be completely and totally present with each other. The 0.3 second peck does not accomplish that. You might as well wave goodbye or shake hands as you depart for the morning commute or work trip. My wife and I have been spending more time doing drive-bys in the shower since we’re both working out in the morning. Sometimes that results in shower sex (AMD note: we keep a small container of coconut oil in the shower for this reason), sometimes just a wet naked hug and kiss, but either way we are present and conscious with each other for those moments – sort of a sneaky way to do it with kids running around outside the room.
Going to bed at the same time as your spouse is also important. Don’t underestimate what some quiet snuggle time and pillow talk with your lover means in the grand scheme of things. Also, it’s hard to have sex if you aren’t both together in the bedroom at night for most married folks. Even if it’s not headboard shaking, or even a little mannequiny, it’s still a connection and one that shouldn’t be discounted for the continued viability of your marriage. We can’t always wait for date night or a sexcation to reconnect with our spouse, we have to fight for this stuff each day.
So I challenge all of us to raise the bar, and put down our phones and tablets. Grab a rootbeer float or glass of wine, leave the TV off and just hang out laughing and talking. Talk about dreams and hopes and lessons learned from other people with your family. Talk about what everyone did today and get into the details. Stop taking for granted those around you and build those unbreakable connections that will forever bond you with those you love on a more frequent basis.
For those looking for something to talk about with their husband or wife, or need a little push in the right direction, check out The discovery Game: for a married couple which has gotten tons of great reviews and is one that we just added to our Cart as well.