How do you spell love?

Last week, my mom-group at church responded to a challenge to connect with our children in different ways than we had the previous week. The study suggested four areas; making

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“dates” (intentional plans for fun) with the kids, establishing meaningful routines, loving ‘as you go’, and just doing nothing – letting your child choose an activity to do with you for, say, one hour. Our table group discussed our individual areas of strength and identified the areas on which we’d like to concentrate, then promised to share results the following week. This would be a fantastic challenge for a creative type!

The first evening, my commitment to the challenge was fresh in my mind. I told Joe about it, and after dinner we asked Luke what he would like to do. I shouldn’t have been surprised when he knew, immediately and exactly, what that would be; the whole family should dress up like cowboys! The boys have a small chest of costumes, but nothing that would dress our whole family. We raided Joe’s office and found sheriff’s badges for the boys and a piece of lace for my pathetic makeshift lady’s hat (really a foam top hat from the boys‘ costume chest). After dressing up and snapping a couple of pictures, Joe and Luke ran around the house playing cowboys while I sat down with a disinterested-in-cowboys Seth and played with blocks.

This first night of the challenge was a smashing success! It had been my primary goal area to spend this kind of do-nothing time with the boys. I’m pretty good at planning outings, walks, play dates and, with Joe’s help, some great family excursions. I also work extra hard to keep our apartment tidy with no dishwasher and the laundry three flights down and three buildings away. Everything seems to take twice as long! I try every day to steal moments – sitting on the couch to cuddle and watch a cartoon, or sitting on the floor to play or read books. But then I wrestle with the feeling I should be doing something productive. As if connecting with my sons isn’t. But I was inspired to add to the repertoire asking each boy what he would like to do, and then joining in the plan and the play.

Over the next few days I had the opportunity to start – or restart – a couple of meaningful routines with the boys. First, although we do have a good night time routine going, I decided to make more of a routine of Seth’s naptime. I started sitting with him and singing songs, reading books and talking with him one on one before tucking him in. His beaming smile (he still doesn’t talk much) tells me that he is pleasantly surprised with the extra mommy time. Then, remembering that the collection of preschool work and activity books I’d bought to teach Luke had gone largely untouched since well before Christmas, I began to work with him each afternoon while Seth napped. It’s been so great to celebrate what he’s learning and marvel at what he’s already learned, and I felt like a teacher again! These have been great bonding moments for the two of us.

As I glance down at my workbook, anticipating tomorrow’s sharing of our group’s new ventures and adventures, these words jump from the page: “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” Time spent creating, playing, learning, discovering, cuddling, talking and just being. Together. Nothing in the whole world says “I love you” like sitting down to meaningfully connect with someone else while you tune out the screeching, grasping demands of the rest of the world.