The moment my youngest hits the floor in the morning, she wants to be in my space. Climbing all up into my lap, she asks, without fail, “What day is it?” with the chaser, “What do we do on this day?”
For her, “What do we do on this day?” is pregnant with more: What food are we going to eat? What game are we going to play? What books are we going to read? What friend’s house are we going to visit? What snack are we going to enjoy? What show are we going to watch? Assumed, of course, is the fact that we will be doing all of these things together. Because, for her, to do anything alone? Ridiculous!
So, hands firmly planted on my cheeks, she stares intently into my face expecting answers. She wants to know: “How is our day going to go?” My reply? “We’ll talk about the day in ‘just a moment’; right now, let’s get some breakfast.”
As she eats, I wash stray dishes from the night before. “Sit by me, Mom!” she says, patting the empty chair beside her. My response? “Just a moment.”
I finish the dishes, she empties her bowl, and just like that, my ‘just a moment’ turns into ‘never.’
Then this: “Let’s play a game together!” she pleads.
“Go get one ready, and I’ll come play in just a moment,” I say on my way to the laundry room where I transfer and load, fold and hang. Arms full of clean clothes, I walk past her eager smiles on the living room floor with a game all laid out, ready to play. “Just a moment,” I offer. “Let me put these clothes away.”
I do put those clothes away. But also, I hurry to brush my teeth and get ready for the day. Real quick, I clean off the bathroom counters and sweep the bathroom floor. I walk back through the living room, finding the game all lined up and ready to go…
But the girl is gone…
And it’s time to leave…
And my “just a moment” turns into “never.”
It’s easy to rationalize these times when “just a moment” turns into never. After all, the dishes aren’t going to wash themselves; the laundry isn’t going to put itself away.
But observing my preschooler react to my “just a moment” fails opens my eyes to the questions in hers:
Can your word be trusted?
When the phrase “just a moment” slips from my lips, I see her shoulders slump just a little. She has come to know that “just a moment” doesn’t really mean “just a moment” at all — it means never — and slowly, my integrity tarnishes.
Don’t you want to spend time with me?
Let’s be real: not many of us get excited at the thought of playing preschool games — especially in the shadow of giant to-do lists.
It’s why most preschool games trigger advanced parental avoidance tactics. Too much evasion, however, sends the message that we don’t want to spend time with our little ones at all.
If fostering a family fond of spending time together is truly a goal, then spending actual time living FOR and not just WITH one another should be a daily focus.
And make no mistake: it WILL take fierce focus! Because that ever-present, always-increasing, never-ending to-do list looms large, threatening to divide our families.
So remember this: while those enticing just-a-moments-that-turn-into-nevers do make it possible to check a few more items off of that list, the impact of playing with a preschooler beats the effect of folded laundry and clean dishes every. single. time.
Fiercely focusing on living FOR (and not just with) my family,