Bedtime routines do not always go as planned, but most nights, you can find our family of 8 giving one another backrubs in the boys’ bunk room. No one (but the baby) is left out of this routine. Dad gets a massage via little feet strategically walking on the backs of his legs. Little ones get back rubs and back scratches, and mama gets the royal treatment, complete with hairbrushing or scalp massage. It has become a nighttime ritual.
It might surprise you to know that this extravagant love-fest did not come about as a result of joyful, well-behaved children at bedtime, but rather, the opposite.
Nighttimes in our home were often fraught with arguing, crying, whining, and hyperactivity all at the same time. Despite our desire to read from God’s Word and to have sweet family time before bed, my husband and I would find ourselves exasperated and eager to turn out the lights and shut the door. Talking about our day and connecting with our young boys at bedtime seemed out of the question.
But once we began to serve one another through care, tenderness, and physical touch, their lips were loosened for conversation and hearts were melted toward one another, receptive to hearing both God’s Word and their parents’ instruction. Why should I have been surprised that my children are not so different from me:
…that they need quality time that isn’t simply about getting the next thing done?
…that they need affection communicated through touch?
…that they need kindness and not just directives?
…that they listen better when they aren’t distracted?
…that they need to wind down after a long day?
…that they can feel stressed out, too?
Serving one another as a family through kindness, gentleness, and physical affection is an invitation to relationship. It’s an invitation to share what’s on the heart and mind. It’s an invitation, not a demand.
I so often approach parenting as a set of tasks, rather than a relationship between people… and I often find myself frustrated when my children fail to meet the expectations I’ve set for certain times and activities.
It may or may not be backrubs and family meetings at bedtime for your family, but the principle is the same: a little tenderness and seemingly superfluous time spent serving one another as family goes further than we might think.
It may even go further than our schedules try to limit.
You just might arrive at your goal for quality time with a little quantity time.
Because of grace,
Ruth Chou Simons, www.gracelaced.com