“In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf (“Of Things that Matter Most”)
Today, after we dropped Big Sister off at a friend’s for preschool and stopped briefly at the store, Little Sister and I went to the indoor playground of a nearby mall. I want to spend more time with her than I do, more time just enjoying her presence and playing together, and this morning I did just that.
She looked around the brightly colored and beautifully lit play area with wonder. She climbed on a few toys before discovering the slide, where we spent most of our time. She said, “My turn!” as she ran from the bottom of the slide to the steps, where she tenaciously found her own way up. I watched her interacting with the other small children playing on the slide and gently assisted her to develop interpersonal skills, encouraging her to wait her turn or to politely ask others to wait for theirs.
When she got to the top of the slide, she called out “watch!” and waited for me to acknowledge her request before scooting her feet to the edge, rolling onto her belly and sliding down the slide. “I did it!” She exclaimed in triumph. She called for my attention every time she was ready to slide, even when I had remained focused on her during her ascent back to the top of the slide. I remembered a principle I recently read in Becky Bailey’s remarkable book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, which is that one of the things our children want most from us is for us to notice what they are doing, to actually see it and reflect to them what we see rather than judging it with a dismissive, “good job!” The constant stream of “watch me!” “Look what I can do!” and similar exclamations from children begs for us to truly look at them, to “embrace them with our eyes” (see “Become as a Little Child,” by Jean A. Stevens) and to acknowledge in descriptive terms, what they have accomplished. “You climbed to the top of the slide and went down by yourself!” Then, the child gets to feel the satisfaction, the elation born of his or her accomplishment as well as gaining the positive attention of the parent, without feeling that the parent must pronounce their efforts good before the child can feel good about them.
Speaking of satisfaction…I felt great joy when I planned ahead, set a “five-minute warning” alarm on my phone and gently got Little Sister into the car in time to pick up Big Sister as soon as preschool ended!
Little Sister and I had a sweet morning together, and I am glad she is part of our family.