May 13th is Mother's Day 2018 in the United States of America. Next month, on June 17th, we have Father's Day. On both of these days, many people go out of their way to do something special for or with their parents, whether giving them gifts, cooking breakfast for them, or jut spending a day out together. It's a great time to remember to appreciate our parents, and to strengthen our bonds with them.
But Mother's Day and Father's Day are one day each in the year. And when you consider that there are 365 days in a year (unless it's a leap year!), spending two days out of the year appreciating and bonding with your parents doesn't seem like that much.
What with school, hobbies, friends, and other activities, many of us lead busy lives—and many of our parents (or whatever adult figures/guardians we live with—please note that, while I'll be using the words "mom", "dad", and "parents" throughout this blog post, it's equally applicable to any adult guardians, not just two-parent heterosexual biological families :-)) are busy too, or even busier than we are. In the midst of all this busyness, it can be hard on both ends to find the time and motivation for parent-child quality time. Yet making sure to set aside this time is an important part of building and maintaining a strong relationship with your parents—and in the end, having that strong relationship is something that is likely to make your lives together much more meaningful and fulfilling. I'd argue that that is well worth prioritizing bonding time over other things once in a while.
But, in the middle of your busy lives, how to go about finding that much-desired time together?
- Let your parents know that you're interested! Oftentimes, parents/guardians might think that you're not interested in spending time with them. They don't want you to feel forced into it, and if they think you don't want to hang out with them, in the process of trying not to pressure you, they may end up not making time for it all—or even coming across themselves as if they don't want to hang out.
To avoid this cycle of miscommunication, the first step to arranging time together is just to make sure everyone knows that everyone else wants to make this more of a priority. Chances are, no matter how busy they are with their jobs, running the home, and everything else they've got on their plates, your parents would like to be able to spend more time with you—the only problem can be actually going beyond the thought to action and making that time happen. Communication is crucial to overcoming this hurdle; if everyone's on the same page, you'll be working together to make that time happen, and it will be easier to find or make it—not to mention, communicating is a form of strengthening your relationship anyway! :)
- Make it a regular part of your schedule. School, sports, sleepovers, choir rehearsal, and so on—you're barely at home most of the day, and when you are, you're trying to finish your boatload of homework. And then that what evening when you're free, your mom has a late meeting and won't be home until after dinner.
Sound familiar? Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, with all our different schedules, especially as we get older, it's can be incredibly difficult just to find any space of time when you and your parents are all available. If this is the case in your family and "taking it as it comes" mean you never end up being able to hang out, you don't necessarily need to leave it to chance; talk to them about setting up a scheduled time. This won't work for everyone (I know in my family's case, many of the best times we have together tend to be spontaneous, and it is difficult to plan ahead), but it's definitely worth considering.
- Do something that works for your family—and little things can be just as big. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; something as simple as planning on eating dinner together every Tuesday evening, playing a game of cards, or going for a walk every other Sunday morning, can be at least as meaningful as going all-out on a trip to the spa or something like that. While it's good to be doing something you all enjoy, ideally, the more important factor is the fact that you're together, not what you're doing. On that note, it also doesn't have to be a long amount of time. If an hour or two doesn't work for you, just take ten minutes here, ten minutes there, when you happen to both be free at the same time. Every evening for the past few weeks my family comes together for five minutes after dinner to fulfill the Jewish custom of "Sefirat HaOmer", or counting the Omer, which essentially just involves reading a couple of sentences together in Hebrew. Sometimes, depending on the night and what else is going on, we'll also read/discuss some simple kaballah (a set of teaching of Jewish mysticism/philosophy) affiliated with each night, sometimes we don't. But just those couple minutes that we come together have their own meaning.
- Try to be flexible. Sometimes, part of the problem isn't just finding the time, it's the fact that your interests and your parents' are likely to diverge as you grow into more of your own person, until it's difficult to find things in common that you like doing. This can lead to a feeling of disconnect, which isn't helpful. But having different interests doesn't mean that you can't hang out together and enjoy yourself, though! Okay, so maybe you're not that into those hikes your parents go on—but if you want to be with them, try to be open-minded. It's possible to enjoy something for the sake of the people you're with, not the things you're doing. And maybe your parents will reciprocate in their turn and give your video games a little more of a chance. :-) Besides, who knows; maybe you'll discover a new love of nature walks!
- Build around things that you already do. It may or may not be realistic for you all to set an hour out of your schedule every week at the same time. But maybe it's more feasible for you to join your mom in her daily gardening, or help your dad cook dinner. Or invite them to come with next time you're walking the dog.
- ... Or don't do at all. Often, having a specific activity that you're doing together can be a great way to spend time together while being productive and/or doing something fun, but it's by no means a requirement for quality time! Just sitting side-by-side on the couch is wonderful, or chatting in the car. Any time together is time together, whether you're doing anything or nothing. Don't overthink it.
- A little awkwardness is okay. So, you've communicated that you want to hang out, you've been flexible, you've built it into your schedule around something already in the routine... but now what? There's a moment of uncomfortable silence.
Especially if it's been a while since you had much quality time together (or even if it hasn't), it can sometimes be awkward to hae gone out of your way to plan to hang out. It's natural. Having a specific activity to focus on can help detract from this awkwardness, but either way, don't let that turn you off. Even sitting in silence together doing work can be its own form of bonding.
- It's about you and them. In the end, no matter how many tips I put in a list of bullet points, every parent-child connection in its own way, with its own dynamics, and every family is different. Let your relationship develop naturally, and make your decisions to spend time together based on that relationship. Trust your connection, and remember that no matter your differences or similarities, they love you, you love them, and that love is stronger than the most hectic schedule. <3
In my family, we rarely do much of anything of note in honor of Mother's Day or Father's Day. But throughout the year, no matter what day it is, we try to spend time together, doing things together, talking together, just being together, and even those times are harder to come by now as I'm busier and busier, these moments are still some of the best, most valuable ones that I have. It's worth it.
What types of things do you like to do with your family (while I'm talking about parents in this article, most of this can be applied to other relatives, such as siblings or grandparents, as well)? Is it ever hard to find time together, or do you easily spend time on a regular basis? (If the latter, then good for you: keep it up!) Do you have any recommendations for how to strengthen and maintain that unique bond with your parents? Are you doing anything for Mother's Day or Father's Day, or do you have other special traditions or times when you go the extra mile for each other?
Please share any and all thoughts or experiences in the comment section below—and happy early Mother's/Father's Days! <3