While going through my daughter's backpack when she was in second grade, I found a paper on which she had written her spelling words for the week. I was pleased to see an "A" for correct spelling and grammar. But as I read her sentences, I realized whom I had become in her eyes:
"Busy - My mom is always so busy. "
"Time - My mom never has enough time."
"Speed - My mom does things with such speed."
"Garden - My mom used to spend time in the garden."
My heart sank as I realized two things: The first was that, to my seven-year-old daughter, I was her whole world. Every sentence was about her mom. She observed me, studied me, wanted to be like me. And the second realization was this: She saw me as busy...as a mom who was rushing through life, not as one who took the time to be with her.
I took a good hard look at my life that evening and repented. I thought about what I wanted to teach my daughter and what I was inevitably showing her from my life. I told God I don't want to be a mom who is all about what I do, and not involved in my daughter's life. I asked God to help me realize that I only have so much time left to influence her in a positive way and to show her that she is more important to me than anything else.
It was then that God opened up my eyes to Psalm 90:12 a verse that became a guiding factor in my life - and parenting - from that point on: "Teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom (NIV)."
It was clear I needed to start "numbering my days" and focusing on the few things that mattered in life, my daughter being one of them. By the grace of God, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in my life, while Dana was still young, to slow down, seize the day, and play with her while she still wanted me around. To this day, that remains the best parenting decision I made, and I believe it's why she and I are close today.
Just as I made certain changes in my life when Dana was 7, you can make them, too.
Regardless of your daughter's age, she desires the gift of your time. When she's little she wants you to play with her. As she gets older, she wants you to shop with her. And as she moves out and has a life of her own, she still wants you to call and ask how it's going. She will always need the gift of your time. And it's never too early - or too late - to start giving it. When you give your time to your daughter, and not just your words, you are showing and teaching her three important truths:
- that she is a priority in your life
- how she can prioritize people in her life
- how she can enjoy life and not rush through it
So how do you actually find the time to spend with your daughter? You can't. Time can't be found anywhere these days. We make the time for what is most important to us. As soon as your schedule frees up, something else will come up. Therefore, you and I must be deliberate and intentional about spending time with those we love the most. Here are some practical ways to start giving your daughter the gift of your time.
1. Look for opportunities to do something special with her. Although she needs you on a daily basis, having specially planned weekly dates or monthly outings go a long way in letting her know she's important. Here are some ways you can do something special with or for her, to show her she's priority.
If your daughter is young and attends school:
- Sign up to help regularly in her classroom.
- Volunteer to drive for and/or chaperone her field trips.
- Stay during her after-school lesson or sports practice, watching her, rather than stopping by to pick her up later. (Even if this is just once in awhile, it will make an impact on her.)
If your daughter is older and/or driving by now or living on her own:
- Buy tickets to a play, concert, or special attraction that the two of you can attend together.
- Schedule a weekly or monthly lunch with her (even if she's still living at home).
- Take her shopping for her or her children.
- Suggest a book or Bible study the two of you can go through together (even if over the phone).
- Talk weekly via phone if she is living far away and text her often just to tell her you're thinking of her (whether she lives with you or not).
2. Listen for what's important to her and join her there. Is she often talking about something in particular? That means it's important to her. Ask her questions about it, which will show your interest, but avoid the tendency to give your opinion or criticize quickly.
3. Learn how to draw her heart closer to yours. Become a student of your daughter's. Study her. Learn what resonates with her heart and invest in it. Pick up on the little things she likes and start incorporating them into your day or week. Whatever takes time and is spent on her will translate to her that she is important to you.
4. Lose the Phone. I have to say it: Put down the phone. I have regretted many times taking a call when my daughter was talking to me and realizing later, after seeing the look on her face, that she felt she had been "bumped" by someone else I appeared to consider more important than her . If you are expecting a call during time you are spending with your daughter, tell her ahead of time and ask "do you mind if I take this call?" just like you would if you were having a conversation with a friend or co-worker. It will help her to see that she's not really being pushed aside for someone else more important. Better yet, leave the phone at home, turned off, or on silent.
For more ways to give your daughter the gift of your time, download my free article "Suggestions for Mother-Daughter Memory Making."
Cindi McMenamin is a national women's conference and retreat speaker and the author of a dozen books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, upon which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.
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