The Value of Being a Present Parent

This is a guest post by my friend Sarah Hanson. Sarah is the mom of a student in my ministry. She and her husband, Doug, are awesome parents and I love how they intentionally raise their kids. They’re teaching me a lot about how I want to raise my own kids someday! Sarah’s post is thoughtful, challenging, and encouraging all at once.

I’m a flawed mom and an imperfect wife, with mad love for my family and a deep desire to live intentionally. Parenting is downright humbling and some of the hardest, holiest work. Time is flying by at lightning speed and my “littles” are not so little anymore. I know that I can’t stop the clock, but I can choose how to spend the precious hours I am given each day.

Sarah and her kids.

I Need To Be Available
Being present and giving the gift of my time makes me available. When I give my children my time and undivided attention, I earn their trust. Being present for the little things gives me the right to be present for the big things in their lives. And when I am consistently available, my children feel loved and connected.

Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are-be all there.” I want to live like that. I need to be fully present, free of distractions. Engaged. I must be present both physically and mentally. I need to slow down, put my phone away, look up, and listen. I want to live in the moment.

I have to set boundaries to manage my time well. I may need to say no to the outside world in order to say yes to the sweet souls under my roof. I must prioritize my family because they deserve my best time and energy, not my leftovers.

As a mom, it is my job to be available to my kids. I love to pick up my kids from school. Those first five minutes are big. I like to look into the eyes of my child and greet him or her. I can feel the pulse of their day in that moment. I want to be there to share in their joy and to catch them when they need a soft place to land. I try to be home when they are home. I want to be present for the homework questions, help them study for tests, and take them to activities. This means we eat dinner together every night whether it’s 5pm or 8pm. Some nights I look around the table at my favorite people and just park my mind, savoring the moment of this season. I don’t want to miss this.

Heart To Heart
My children crave one-on-one time with us. They ask for it. I love dates with my boys and girl time with my daughter, while my husband enjoys daddy/daughter dates and father/son time. They love having us all to themselves.

We recently took our son on a weekend getaway for his 13th birthday. He talked about things he doesn’t talk about with his siblings around. We enjoyed getting to know him on a deeper level and he soaked in the goodness of our love and attention.

Once a week my middle school son and I grab a treat together. We both look forward to this. We drink sodas, eat ice cream, and just laugh together. Sometimes we will just go for a short drive and listen to music. There is no agenda and I am careful not to pepper him with questions. Setting aside this time for him has strengthened our relationship, and also gives him the opportunity to confide in me.

I am all about face-to-face connection, but there is something to side-by-side conversation. I have noticed that just being next to my child (watching a game, working on a project, or taking a walk together) paves the way for unforced, easy conversation. I just need to be present. I take full advantage of car time where the words flow freely and the questions are plentiful.

Bedtime Is Sacred Ground
My people have a lot to say at bedtime. One child likes to share random thoughts. Another asks heavy, loaded, deep theological questions. One child just wants me there, my physical presence. They all need something different at different times in different seasons. Yet each one requires my time and my presence. So we are very intentional about being available at bedtime.

In our house, the hard work happens at bedtime. My children will talk about troubles with friends or about what hurts their feelings. We may unpack the meaning of a new word they learned at school or tackle a difficult situation for them. Oh mercy, I am dead dog-tired at bedtime. But this is the holy ground. In their bedroom with the door shut, they open up and pour their hearts out to us. We need to allow extra time to talk and I need to bring my A-game. The single most important thing we do together is pray. It is powerful for our kids hear us pray for them and with them.

Your God-Given Assignments
It is an honor and a privilege to be a mom. I have to make deliberate decisions to be present for my family. If we desire to lay the groundwork and be the main influence in our childrens’ lives (not their friends and certainly not the Internet), we need to be present. It is our God-given responsibility to invest in their hearts, walk them through the garbage, and point them to Jesus. Over and over.

Being present means loving what is right in front of you. Give yourself grace when you mess up, but don’t give up. The years are short and the hours are few, so spend your one and only life on the God-given assignments that are truly yours. And be fully, wholeheartedly present.