Do you sometimes give your kids short shrift?

This summer did not turn out the way I hoped, and now it’s almost over. School starts in a little over a week.

Working at home, as editor for Walnut Creek Patch, with a, yes, flexible schedule, I thought I’d be able to enjoy some moments with my 12-year-old son. I could arrange to go to weekly matinees, and make up the time or night, or we could pick time to go rock climbing, as he has come to like.
He’s been so enamored of his weekly golf lessons that he said, “Mom, you should learn golf, too!”
Did I take a golf lesson? No. Too busy. Too caught up in work.
We rented some classic movies, which we talked intensely about watching.
He looked forward to watching them with me, but sometimes I fell asleep. Other times, there was just work I just couldn’t stop thinking about, and I’d tell him, no, not tonight, I’ve got worked. ‘
Often when we were driving in a car somewhere, and he was talking about this comedy show he loves, a new book he had read, or he was peppering me with questions about God, the presidency, our relations with the Russians, and what was that Cold War thing anyway, I’d be on auto-pilot, answering his questions or responding with a “hmm,” “oh yeah?”

Sometimes, as my son was talking about something, I felt myself wishing he would just be quiet for a minute, so I could focus on what I needed to think about.
Then, I’d feel terrible. Here he is, my little boy growing up, and it’s a summer when he wants to be with me, and talk to me, and spend time with me. Maybe this is the last summer this will be true for us. Maybe next summer, he’ll think I’m an idiot and not worth his valuable 13-year-old’s time, because he’d rather be with this cool friends.
And now the summer of his being 12 is gone.
But it’s not just me, apparently, so caught up in my own whatever, that I haven’t been present at key moments for my son.

I was talking to some other parents recently who were also weighed down by this horrible feeling of giving their kids short shrift, because they were so darned busy, or, in general, overwhelmed by life.
Another writer/journalist friend, a single mom, said she was inundated with freelance assignments these past few months, and, in this economy, she didn’t want to turn them down. So, for much of the summer, she was sitting at her computer writing, while her son, 12, like my son, was in and out at friends homes or sports practice.
“I really didn’t see much of him,” she said, with sadness, also ticking off the list of things she hoped she could spend time doing with him.
One Walnut Creek dad, who does consulting work at home, said he got caught up in being director of the swim team program at a local community pool. He said that volunteer job involved tons of time, often dealing with a handful of parents who had lost perspective and took the whole competition way too seriously.
That volunteer job, for this dad, took up major amounts of time, that he should have been devoting to his paying jobs–and to his sons. He said his older son, who is learning guitar, kept begging him for some time together to just sit down and play guitar with him. And this father, who felt so overwhelmed with these other demands on his time, kept putting his son off.
This dad, who had initially taught his son guitar so long ago, finally found himself forcing himself to say “yes” to his son’s request.
The dad said that it took major mental effort to to turn off the anxiety-provoking must-do list in his brain–so he could focus his attention on his son.
This dad said he took a deep breath, grabbed his guitar and sat down with his son. Side by side, the two strummed out some tunes.
And, as this father describes, it was the most beautiful, magical moment he had experienced in a long time.

8 thoughts on “Do you sometimes give your kids short shrift?

  1. The most important thing to remember in this whole process of raising children is why you had them in the first place.

    Beating yourself up about not spending enough time with or doing enough for your kids accomplishes nothing.

    Carve out time every day to spend with your spouse and children and then leave a little time for yourself too.

    If you give your kids lots of love and guidance they will probably turn out just fine.

    Not everyone can be the best cupcake baker or soccer coach and laying a guilt trip on your kids doesn't do anyone any good.

    Don't over analyze your job as a parent….do what comes naturally and the world will be a better place.


  2. The first day of the rest of your life begins today – this moment.

    Can't look back or beat oneself up over anything done or not done. I agree with that.

    The best thing I've done lately is several weekend getaways, one after another after another. So much fun, no computer, no fruit picking. But we actually paid to pick berries at a farm on the Coast. Ava is a natural born fruit picker, what can I say.

    Yes, do what comes naturally. Work is a must, and worry often accompanies deadlines, due dates. We're only human.


  3. My children have arrived rather late in my life, one advatege though is the amount of time I am able to give them…energy levels are another thing though!


  4. My son got really sick just before this summer and spent the last three months recuperating. At first I though we'd both go crazy, in the house or yard a lot, unable to travel, take classes, or do anything that takes a lot of energy. It's been the nicest summer though. Difficult at first but better as he regained his health.

    We do local outings and visit friends close by. It's been a relaxing, sweet time. I got hardly any freelance work done, but I did help him get better. I'm lucky my husband makes just enough to support us. If deadlines can wait one more day, you can do not much of anything and still have good moments and memories.


  5. Reverse the question….do your kids sometime give YOU short shrift?

    Bet the answer is yes, particularly as they get older.

    As a parent (Dad or Mom) it is your responsibility to be sure that everyone in the family spends time with each other. Play board games, take a hike, or just sit and talk.

    Parents are the older members of the family who are supposed to know what to do. Take charge now and you won't regret it later. Nor will your children


  6. Ya know CiS, usually when I drop by it is to harangue you about something gun related.

    This subject KILLS me.

    With both me and my wife working crazy “professional” jobs that require many hours beyond 50 week I do worry about the impact this would have. If I was the sole income earner I could suck it up and know they were getting attention from my wife. So far I feel like our kids have been in very good daycare/preschools so far, but I know as they head to grade school age the amount of quality attention they will get from after school providers will probably go down.

    I just try to always remember advice to not just physically be there, but really be PRESENT with them and give them the undivided attention they thrive on.

    It just seems like there aren't enough weekends to make up for the hours I miss with them M-F.


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