Giving a Valentine’s Gift of Time: Nine Minutes to a Closer Connection
It never surprised me that my children needed food and water, nor that they needed sleep. What did surprise me, however, is the level of daily connection my children need from me and their father.
Connection with one another is vital in order for all other systems to run smoothly when it comes to daily life with children (and partners). It never fails to strike me how quickly even a young child, when approached by an adult with whom they are regularly spending quality time, will respond in an agreeable, relaxed manner, even when the request or redirection was not something immediately rewarding or stimulating for the child.
We, of course, live in the world of deadlines, sleep deprivation and relentless schedules that take away from free time we may have wished to use for things like relationships and connection. You’ll understand my skepticism, then, when I saw a video on social media proclaiming “Nine Minutes to a Deeper Connection” with your child. As much as I roll my eyes at some of the rather preposterous “life hacks” that either fill my home with useless clutter or require a master’s degree, a sponsorship from the Gates Foundation and a mere 23 hours of work, I felt compelled to watch this mommy blogger and her video. Call me a raging elder millennial, but I love a good list.
I was pleasantly surprised only moments into the video as I realized this person was on to something, something I could use. A radically simple idea that could work. A consummate professional, I made my own children guinea pigs lest I stake my reputation on a bogus prospect. Gratefully, we all survived, and I can confidently share with you this method of creating deeper connections with your children in less time than it takes to wrangle a plastic McDonald’s toy from under a couch.
We would ideally find time for one another throughout the day, but a suggested structure of three-minute segments really does break down the challenge into bite-size pieces. Three minutes, three times a day, three chances to slow down and see one another. It’s worth a shot, right?
The First Three Minutes
The first three minutes you aim to spend with your children are when they first wake up. I found it easiest to invite them into my bed or join them in theirs. When I took this time, the girls rewarded me with smiles, snuggles and slightly less breakfast-table piracy. We talked about dreams, both silly and scary, and shared ideas for the day.
Though my own children are school age, this would work very similarly for babies and toddlers. A scoop up and squeeze, a rock in the rocker or even just a big raspberry on the cheek before reaching for a chubby little hand could really set everyone’s morning off right.
I felt that setting aside my mental to-do lists and worries for the day and first assuming the title of “Mama” gave me a more buoyant heart for the usual pre-work chicanery.
The Next Three Minutes
The next three minutes to slow down and connect are either when your children come home from school/daycare, when you come home from work or, if you’re a stay-at-home-warrior, after one of those glorious midday naps we all love for our little ones to take. I come home from work in the evening after the girls have been home for some time with their dad, so taking this time gave me a chance to hear about the school day, physically share some space and often just stroke a sweet, freckled cheek.
Reuniting after time apart in an intentional, slow-paced manner provides all parties with a chance to feel heard, valued and seen. This may especially help with any pick-up drama from young children who need time with their favorite folks (that’s you, Tulsa parents) to process big feelings they may have kept in throughout the day. Think of how much more peace there could be at dinner if we all get a moment to breathe.
The Final Three Minutes
The final three minutes, you have probably guessed by now, are the three minutes before your children go to bed. The tension of the day and the stress of tomorrow can weigh on us all, regardless of age. How pleasant it could be to concentrate on the small, sweet things that keep us going! Small hands reaching for ours, giggles as favorite songs are sung (and sung again) and tired bodies gradually melting together into a still monument to what it means to be a family: These are the treasures we cannot store in a vault or purchase through Amazon. These are, ultimately, the things we reach for when seas get rough, and we are tempted to throw up our hands in frustration.
Just as we reach for this to help us stay grounded, so do our children. When we are connected, we are closer to one another than to the challenges around us. No matter the severity of the storm, we can weather it as one.
I took the “Nine Minutes to a Deeper Connection” challenge, giving myself grace for days I didn’t quite make my goal, and found myself feeling more patient when my children were struggling and more trusted when there were big feelings to share. I ended my days, flawed as I am, feeling like a better parent. This month, as we ask ourselves how we can show love to others, think beyond chocolate and colorful hearts. Offer yourself to your family and see how much better you all feel.
Alicia is an Early Childhood Educator who works with young toddlers. She finds joy and inspiration to write in their cheeky shenanigans, as well as those of her two daughters.