Time is a rare commodity, but there is no shortcut to building healthy relationships. Families need to understand the value and importance of spending time together.
As the director of an organization involved in counselling families and enriching marriages, I travel all over the world to conduct marriage and parenting seminars. This, ironically, keeps me away a lot from my own wife and three young boys.
A few years ago, my wife and I made a New Year’s resolution to spend more quality time with our children. This was after my wife had told me gently but strongly that my and her responsibility starts within our own home. She said, “I have heard you go up on stage and say that you are an absentee father and that you feel guilty about it. Stop feeling guilty and start practising what you desire to happen.” So, we decided to set aside every Monday evening for just our children and ourselves.
I realized I don’t want my kids, when they have grown up, to say that their dad was only a teacher to others and never a good father to them. That’s the last thing I would want to hear from my children. God gave children to parents and not to schools, grandparents or maids. It’s my duty to bring up my children and I need to be there for them. This must be a priority.
To have quality time with children, some women have consciously chosen to stay home to be more available for their children. I know of families who have made a conscious choice for one spouse to work full-time and the other to work part-time in order to spend more time with their children. I also know of fathers who have taken less-demanding jobs because their wives have full-time jobs.
There will always be someone to replace me as the director of an organization, but no one can replace me as my wife’s husband and my children’s father. So my positions or titles in the office cannot and should not take away the fun, humour and the joy my children deserve. Going out as a family for a break or spending quality time together will only happen if we make that a priority and include it in our weekly schedule. If you consider your time with your children and family as an optional extra, you are not doing justice to the position and responsibility that God has given you as a father or mother, husband or wife.
Sometime ago, a father brought his teenage son to me for an informal counselling session. His son, according to him, had become rebellious, wouldn’t talk to him, just wanted to spend time with his friends or play online games. This affected the atmosphere at home and the father felt his son needed counselling to change this behaviour.
As I spoke separately with the young boy, he slowly opened up and said that his relationship with his father was strained as he felt his father had no time for his family. He worked in the Middle East and even when he came home for a vacation, all he did was spend time with his friends or parents. He spoke of one incident when his father actually walked out of the house in a rage and blamed him for having to return to the Middle East. He didn’t hear from his father for eight months. It was during this time that he began to feel depressed and the only thing that filled the void was online games and television. I then asked him to write down what he truly desired as far as his family and home were concerned. All he wanted, I learnt, was for his father to be at home and spend time with him and the rest of the family – for them to be a normal family.
When his son shared what he had written, his father was shocked: His son just longed to have a relationship with him. The father who had brought his “rebellious son”, on whom he had “lost all hope”, then asked his son to forgive him and left with a resolution to spend time regularly with his son and daughter.
I’m glad that my wife helped me see early enough the sense in spending time with family and now my younger son, who is 10 years old, still loves Monday evenings. He wishes that every evening were a Monday evening! Are your spouse and children excited to come home because you are at home that day? Do your children love coming back home because it’s a place of fun and joy? One needs to deliberately include fun and humour in family life.
As I was writing this article, I got the idea to put this theory to the test and see what my children had to say about it. So at the end of last year, 2014, while I was alone with my children, I asked each of them what they would like me to do differently in 2015. “I want the family time to continue in a proper way,” my youngest son quickly said. Our family time had been irregular for a few weeks while we had to move house between my travels. So he is looking forward to a great time again. My second son, Ankith, said, “It’s truly a fun time and I really now know the skills of all my family members.” And then smiling, he added, “Papa you don’t know how to throw a ball properly.”
So how would you rate your home? As a boring place, or as an exciting place for the family to return to every day with longing for one another? What can you do today to be there for your children and bring humour and fun into your home?
This article is adapted and reprinted with permission from Family Mantra (www.familymantra.org), a magazine that addresses urban family issues, to strengthen and restore families