Listen up parents! Your kids have lots to tell you.
This month, I asked an assortment of 5- to 10-year olds what they found silly about us grownups and what they’d like to change about their parents.
What I expected to get was a funny column along the lines of Bill Cosby’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” And while I did get plenty of that, I also got an unexpected lesson. Many of our kids feel we’re not spending enough time with them, that we talk, text and work too much at the expense of time spent with them. It was an eye opener for me.
But first, the funny stuff:
Many of the kids I spoke to were very vocal about what they want their parents to do differently. “Let us eat sweet things that you don’t let us!” one cutie demanded. “Do whatever I say!” “Do my homework!.” “Let me have dessert every night!” And my favorite quote of all from a young boy: “I wish they’d crack easier when you’re begging for stuff.”
What struck me most, however, was the fact that many of our kids think we’re on the phone too much or that we just aren’t present even when we’re with them. And they just want more time with us.
“I wish every day you did not have phone calls,” one child told me. “I wish they would play with us more often!” said another. “My dads always on the phone and can never play with me outside,” said a third grader. “My mom’s always on the phone,” another kid said.
“I wish we did more fun things!” added another. “Play with me more, play more ball with me,” requested one child. And, “I wish they did not do as much work.” “I wish,” said one boy, “that I had more time with my parents.”
And from my own son: “Sometimes when I’m about to talk to you, you get a call. I think you should stay a little bit on the phone. When you talk, it seems like hours.”
The fact that I am guilty of this makes me feel ashamed. I often answer the phone even if I’m in the middle of a game or conversation with my kids and my iPhone sometimes feels like an extension of me. None of my emails or texts or calls are life or death situations. There is absolutely no reason to let my phone control me, to text or talk instead of spending precious quality time with my kids.
This was a wake up call for me, no pun intended. I am going to hear what my child is saying and I am going to put away my phone when I’m home with my kids. I’m going to work harder to be present mind and body when I’m with them and to let them know through my actions that they are more important than a text, email or casual phone conversation.
One very wise third grader told me, “Grown-ups talk about boring stuff...like work when they’re not even at work and can enjoy their time right now.” I think we all need to take her words to heart. Be present.
Be available. Put down the phones and really spend time with your kids. And, of course, give them candy for breakfast, never put them in time out, buy them anything they want and do their homework for them.
Lauren Menis is a Dunwoody mother whose column appears in The Crier each month. You can reach Lauren at Lauren.Menis@gmail.com