Be an involved parent now because you can't turn back time

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What does it mean to be an involved parent? What do you miss out if you aren't? Read on to find out.

It’s been a long day. You get home feeling exhausted. Your head is throbbing and you still have a few emails to reply to. You perfunctorily ask your kids how their day was but you are in no state to listen to their incessant chatter. It’s not that you don’t want to be an involved parent but all you want to do is zone out, wind down and sleep. 

You tell yourself. “It’s just today. If I leave it to my spouse for one day it doesn’t mean I’m not an involved parent. I’m only human. I need some space too. I promise to make it up to them tomorrow”.

But guess what? One day becomes another and yet another and eventually it becomes a convenient habit to just space out in front of the television while someone else attends to your children.

But of course you love them. You are working from dusk to dawn to provide for them. You love them and you make sure the house is stocked up with all their favourite food, you buy them everything that they need. You give them big hugs and sprinkle them with goodnight kisses before they go to bed.

Does that make you an involved parent? And even if you aren’t completely involved in the daily happenings does that make you any less of a parent? Is it wrong if you are really just too exhausted to spend whatever is left of your day with them?

Well the fact of the matter is this. Being a less involved parent doesn’t necessarily make you any less of a parent. There’s never a one size fits all approach to parenting. There is no ideal parent. But if you keep leaving your children to the helper, your spouse, or the grandparent, there’s a lot you are going to miss. And you’re never going to be able to turn back time.

What you (and they) miss when you are not an involved parent 

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Bath time is great fun and creates wonderful parent-child bonding opportunities.

When you don’t shower your children, you miss their awfully cute singing in the shower. You miss rubber ducky moments. You miss them playing with soap suds and trying their best to catch bubbles while shampooing their hair. You miss them rubbing their tummy and laughing at their bodies. You miss them goofing around while brushing their teeth and making alien noises while gargling. 

And they miss doing all of that with you.

When you don’t have dinner with them, or you are too distracted by your phone the entire time, you miss them telling you about all the fun they had in school that day. You miss hearing about their show-and-tell and their friend’s birthday celebrations. You don’t realise that they did a good deed and their teachers praised them. You don’t realise that they cried in school. 

And they wonder why you didn’t say anything about it. 

When you don’t put them to bed, you miss reading their favourite stories with them. You miss the lines that they like to whisper and those that they like to read at the top of their voices. You miss the parts of the story that make them burst into peals of laughter, you miss them imitating their favourite characters and you miss all their cute expressions. 

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One way that you can be an involved parent is to read to your child at night.

You miss singing lullabies with them and you miss listening to them tell you about the best and worst parts of their day. You miss them hugging you tight, brows furrowed and wide-eyed as they confess their fears about monsters under their bed and the boogeyman in the cupboard. You miss them mumbling with eyes half-closed, about angels and fairies coming to visit them in their dreams. 

And they miss asking you to sing You Are My Sunshine for the two hundred and thirty-seventh time.

When you don’t attend their school events, or parent-teacher conferences (because you were too busy working), you miss them displaying their talents. You miss them overcoming their stage fright, you miss the applause from the crowd, you miss watching how they interact with their friends and you miss how their teachers speak of them so fondly. 

And they look around and wonder why their friends’ parents have time and you never do. 

Right now, you may not realise how very precious these moments are. Don’t bury your head in your hands and cry one day, wondering where time went, for time really does fly. Be an involved parent while you still can.

The impact of not being an involved parent 

Maybe you aren’t a very sentimental person and you might dismiss these as trivial experiences. But trust me when I say that these are anything but trivial to your children. These are precious moments. These are the precious bits of their childhood that creates their foundation and sets the tone for the rest of their lives.

These are the moments that form that tiny little world that they live in. Children don’t let everyone into their world. It takes trust and love for them to allow you in. 

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Children live in a tiny world that they call their own. And you need to be an involved parent for them to truly let you in.

If you are not an involved parent, or if you are there but constantly distracted, they eventually get the message. They are never too young to get the message. Even if they don’t understand, they move away, slowly but surely.

And then they stop allowing you into that little world. They start building walls around you.

They will love you and respect you all the same, for you are their parent and so long as you aren’t a dysfunctional or abusive one, they won’t hate you. But if you’re not an involved parent, at some point, you won’t be the one they run to to rattle on about all the happenings in their lives. 

You don’t want it to reach a point where you are the last to know about anything that happens in their lives.

They grow up too fast…

So remember, be an involved parent while you still can for their childhood goes by in the blink of an eye. You have your whole life ahead to focus on your career. Apply for that childcare leave when you must get out of the office early when you can, and be present on days that matter. Come home, wash your face, grab a cup of coffee if you need to, and set aside time that belongs only to them.

Be present. Hang on to every word they say. Play with them. Laugh with them. Sing silly songs with them. Get into the bathtub with them. Read with them. Read the same story again every night if you must. Tuck them into bed. Watch them as they sleep and kiss their forehead.

As tired as you may be, find the strength to do these things for as they often say, the days are long but the years are short!