You would think, in a family of seven, the opportunities to listen, laugh, and love would be endless, and you’d be right; they are. Yet, taking advantage of those opportunities is an entirely different thing. Some days, I go to bed and realize I never once laughed with my children or really listened to what my husband was saying. I always love my family, but how often do I love on them? In today’s installment of the Life’s Essential Ingredients series, we are heading back home to grow in our relationships with our immediate loved ones.
9. Listen to, Laugh with, and Love on My Husband and Children.
The same large number of family members which ensures the opportunity for listening is sometimes the very obstacle preventing me from doing it. So many voices and hands clamor for my attention throughout the day; I can barely listen to my own thoughts, much less theirs. I must find a way to carve out quiet moments to tune in to my children’s hearts and be attentive to my husband. I think it is easy to link listening to serious matters, when, with kids, it can be as easy as showing interest in what interests them.
One of my sons is a sports fanatic. He’s always asking me to look up scores for teams and sharing random stats and facts about various players. Honestly, I have no interest in these things whatsoever; what’s worse is that I’ve told him so. Realizing my mistake, I have determined to give him my undivided, interested attention for a few minutes everyday, to look up his requests and ask questions about his favorite athletes and teams, to allow him the chance to share his passion with me. When I listen to him talk sports, I am showing that I care about him.
Each child is different, and they have different listening needs. However, when it comes to laughter, the need is universal. We need a bit of fun and silliness in our lives to keep us sane, especially as parents:) Here is an article that shares some easy ways to add fun into family.
Why is it so hard for me to lighten up as a mom? I am actually a pretty funny person, according to those outside my family. Sometimes, the kids will be talking about some nonsense or other, and a silly notion will infiltrate my mom-mind. I have to consciously unlock the door of my mouth to allow fun to break free. My funny interjection catches them unaware before peals of hearty laughter ensue, to my delight. My kids love to see me acting silly or saying ridiculous things: it is then that I am speaking their language, the language of laughter and fun and wonder. Why do we save the best of ourselves for our friends and the outside world? Why has yelling replaced laughing?
When I gave birth to my fifth child, I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days to rest and bond with her. After the first day, I came to a realization so profound, I wrote it down and saved it: “I haven’t yelled or screamed at anyone for nearly 24 hours now. I don’t yell at the nurses to do what I want (even in the throes of labor) or at friends or [extended] family in frustration. But, there are these four little people that I live with and spend nearly every waking hour of my life with, and at them I yell and scream constantly- little children who need my love and kindness and self-control.” I followed with a prayer, “Lord, help me to communicate effectively and respectfully with my children so that they can know they are loved and not be discouraged or exasperated by their mother.”
I haven’t completely overcome these tendencies as a parent, but isn’t home the place we want to put our best foot forward? I want my husband and kids to know that I can have fun, that I am an encourager, that I enjoy life, that I enjoy them. My husband has an ironic sense of humor. He has been discouraged over the years that I don’t readily delight in his humor. I was prone to giving him the “mom look”: that disapproving half-smile. I have no idea why I held back from laughing out loud, but in the past couple of years, I have made it a point to truly enjoy my husband’s humor, to encourage him with my laughter. I find that I enjoy him all the more for doing so, and I have a lot more fun in the process, too!
As I hope you can see, listening to and laughing with our family are also ways that we can love on them. The best way to love on someone is to know how they best receive love. Yesterday, I had an enlightening conversation with a friend from church, who reminded me that understanding our husband’s or child’s love language is an essential key to showing them love. For those that don’t know what I am talking about, be sure to check out The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts and The 5 Love Languages of Children. In the meantime, here are the five love languages: Words of Affirmation (speaking positive words of encouragement), Quality Time (spending time together, ie: going fishing, sitting on the beach, gardening, going out for ice cream), Acts of Service (doing things for your loved one, ie: washing the dishes, mowing the lawn), Giving Gifts (buying thoughtful presents), and Physical Touch (making physical contact, ie: back rub, holding hands, pat on the back).
If you are not sure, take the time to explore each language with each member of your family (yes, this will take time), and identify which languages resonate most fully with each individual. Then, look for opportunities to love on your loved ones each day in their own, special way. For my friend, she shared that simply scratching her son’s back for a minute in the morning and evening was a specific, intentional way she could love on her son daily in his language, physical touch.
What are some ways that you have found effective to include listening, laughing, and loving into your family’s life each day?
(photo credit for featured post: http://www.psychalive.org)