- Get onto their level when you talk. That means, bend down or lift them up. Just because they are short doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be courteous.
- Really look at their artworks and treasures. Even if it is the fifth rainbow scene they have drawn that day. (And wait to dispose of the extras until they are sound asleep.)
- Pay attention to what they say. One of my sons is long winded on subjects like rocks and fossils. I confess, I tend to glaze over as soon as he starts. But I don’t know of a better way to get to know your child than to let them talk while you listen.
- Let them hang out with you, even when they are a dreadful nuisance. When Alex was a tot, he was literally always at my side, trying to help. He didn’t play with toys, and I was constantly tripping over him and cleaning up his messes. Tonight he made hamburger buns from scratch and grilled the burgers and cooked the green beans for our supper. It was more like he was tripping over me in my attempts to give him a hand. He felt quite accomplished and I was so proud of him.
- Know their interests, provide them with resources, and find books at the library to drag home. 🙂 For us, that usually means a stack of Zoobooks for the science trivia lover, a few wilderness survival books/make your own handicrafts for the hands-on boy, some American Girl stories for the six year old, and a pile of storybooks. I have a friend who spends hours sewing costumes for her children so that they can participate in living history projects.
- Take time to teach them what they want to learn. Today my Livvy sewed her first wobbly hand stitched seam around a pillow for her doll. I didn’t think I had time to teach her, but her wistful face reproached me, and it turned out to be a lot fewer knots than I expected.
- Hear what they are saying behind the tears. For my small tots it often just means, “Please, feed me and put me to bed!” With my older children, it is becoming a bit more complicated, “But they will laugh at me if you cut my hair like that.” Sigh. Good bye, cute little-boy mop-top.
- Play with them. Our house is too tight for “panther in the bull pen”, but we play peek around the corner and hide and seek outside. Inside is Pictionary or Sorry or Candy land, and oh, dear Lord, not Memory again!
- Give them the security of boundaries. Nothing looks quite as neglectful to me as a child who is left completely to his own devices. He doesn’t even matter enough for the adults in his life to bother to guide him.
- Laugh with them. Sometimes when everyone is pulling me this way and that, needy, needy, and I start fraying at the edges, we all crowd around the computer and do silly web cam shots. We howl uproariously and everybody likes everybody else again.
I just reread my list and am feeling convicted. I know this stuff, but it is so easy to push aside the children while the big, important adult world gets its demands met. I am looking a bit dolefully at a long winter in a little house with enough energy pent up to fuel a spaceship. I am going to be tested, oh yes. I need these reminders so much.
I want to give a bow to all those people who make my children feel special. Maybe you are the Sunday school teacher that genuinely takes an interest in your little charges. Thank you for the time you brought hot chocolate and donuts for your class. Maybe you are the man who never forgets to bring smarties to share with your little friends after church. (Hi, Steve.) Or perhaps you are the adult who knows all their names and asks them how they are doing. Maybe you taught them some new games, or helped them bat the ball at the school picnic instead of going off with the big people to play your own game. You noticed them struggling to reach the water fountain and gave them a boost. My children know who you are, and so does God. He even said something about it, about not losing a reward just for giving a drink of cold water. Thank you!