What to do when you feel like a ghost with your kids

Recently I found myself just standing there. I was watching my kids play with each other.  And I felt like a ghost. I could see them and hear them, but I couldn’t connect. I wasn’t on their radar. It’s a paradox that bewilders me. My kids are by far the most precious thing I have in this world. And yet in the rigor and chaos of life, they often end up with the scraps left over.

We have been on the road for more than a month. California, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and now Ohio. Lots and lots and lots of driving. Visiting relatives, friends. The blissful yet sometimes hectic blend of warm reunion and chaos.

And lots of kids.
Sadly probably not the first time, but I realized it’s been hard to connect with my kids. In part because it’s difficult to have a routine when you’re traveling a lot. It’s like you reach this dreadful threshold in the gap of not spending quality time with your kids. When it’s like even when you have some time and you want to do something with them, you’re stumped.
You’re clueless.
By no means do I have the definitive solution to this challenge probably as old as Adam and Eve. I do however want to share a few practical keys that have helped me quite a bit.

1.  Treat time with your kids like you would treat an important appointment.

Plan it and create boundaries. This is something my dad did that really stuck in my memory.
If someone called while he was hanging out with me or one of my sisters, he would ask mom to tell them that he was in an important meeting and that he would have to call them back.
The key was having that boundary where people don’t necessarily need to know what exactly you’re doing. Unfortunately, not all people share the same core value for spending time with your kids. And they’ll blow right through that boundary if they know “all you’re doing is doing something with your kids.”

2.  Have a KIDS NIGHT

This is something my dad used to do. We would have one night a week we called Kids Night. Typically it would be a tickle game. I haven’t been super consistent with having a kids night, but when we do it, our kids love it!

3.  Go on one-on-one dates

I asked a friend who has 7 grown kids what he would do differently in raising them if he could do it all over again.  His answer was “I would spend more time with them one-on-one.”   Lately I have realized how critical this is. The dynamics of doing something with all your kids together and spending quality time one-on-one is a world apart.  Often I’ll just go out for coffee with one of them. At least the older ones. They like coffee. And I let them have decaf. :)

The first time I took Ariel on a date, we went to a fancy French restaurant. She was two years old and she loved it.  She actually saw an angel in the restaurant. But that’s a whole story of it’s own. Perhaps I’ll share it some time.

4.   Have moments to look forward to.     And plan plan plan! 
Depression is the state of not only being sad, but losing hope that this sadness will ever change. Life can get monotonous.  Just getting together with my wife and planning some things to do that we all like and can look forward to really makes a difference. You have to have something to look forward to. And if you don’t plan, then well, you just stand there stumped.

5. Visualize how much more time you have with your child.

The other day, a friend at work shared something by the people at ReThink Group/Orange who wrote a book called Losing Your Marbles. You put an X amount of marbles in a jar, and every marble represents one week you have left with your child before they graduate from high school. So every week you take one marble out of the jar, and you have this visualization of how precious the time is you have with your kids.  Well, marbles are fun, but if you don’t have any marbles, but you have a smart phone, then you can use a free App they developed. I just installed it. It’s called the Legacy Countdown.  Click here for iPhone, or here for Android.  I think it’s brilliant. Check it out, and install it on your phone.

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My bottom line.

It’s grievous when you have to break the ice while connecting with the people in your life you care about the most.  Whether that be a spouse, friend or child.  Relationships need to be continually cultivated, or they get weedy and harden like an untended garden.

Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below.  And if you liked this post, share it. :)

What is one thing you like to do with your kids for fun and to connect?  We can always use new ideas!  :)

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