Q: I can't believe how busy our family has become; we all seem to be going different directions at once. We're trying to make changes, but meanwhile, I'm concerned about staying connected with our children in what little "free time" we have. Help!
Jim: Parenting is a challenging endeavor, so it's easy to let the serious business fill every open space. But sometimes you just have to take time to be playful.
Let me share a personal example. When my sons were younger, I came home from work one day just as both boys came into the house from the backyard. Troy was limping, and Trent had a bruise on his chin, but they were both laughing like crazy. Naturally, I asked what happened. Troy said, "Mom got on the trampoline with us and she landed on my ankle." Trent chimed in: "Her knee smacked me right in the jaw."
Now, that playtime may not have gone perfectly, but it did have a positive outcome. First, it was a moment we all still laugh about. But far more importantly, Jean's playfulness drew the boys closer to her. The sore jaw and bum ankle are long forgotten, but my now-adult boys will always remember their mom taking time out of her busy schedule to play with them.
I think that's a great reminder for every parent. The pressures of adult life can make us a little too serious sometimes. Be playful. Play board games, throw the ball around, wrestle on the floor. Find something your children enjoy doing and join them. It'll deepen your relationship with them, and they'll see you as more than a disciplinarian or someone who cooks dinner and does the laundry. They'll identify you as someone who really enjoys spending time with them whenever you can. And to a child, that equals feeling loved.
Q: I've been with my girlfriend for more than two years. I love her and want to move toward marriage. She says she loves me, too, but she wants the freedom to see other guys. It's frustrating -- should I just move on?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: While the emotions you're wrestling are challenging, your decision really hinges on what you ultimately want. If you're at a place where you truly desire and are eager to be married, you may need to start looking elsewhere. Despite what we hear from movies or common romantic thought -- and contrary to what you're probably feeling -- there's no such thing as "the only one" when it comes to choosing a life mate. But if you're sold on this girl and willing to be patient, you can see if her heart eventually turns.
Either way, you might consider adjusting your current pattern of interacting with her. Any behavior on your part that suggests you're just hanging around waiting for her to see the light is counterproductive. A man who projects a humble sense of confidence, self-respect and independence is attractive and interesting to a woman. But a guy who acts like his life is meaningless without her is usually a major turnoff.
For starters, make it a point to work on self-improvement by pursuing activities that grow your mind and character -- reading good books, serving others, etc. Look for other quality women whose company you enjoy and spend time with them. You might be surprised what develops. You'd also be well-served to not be so available to the woman in question. There's a real chance that subconsciously she's taken your fondness for granted; a noticeable shift in your behavior just may cause her to reconsider.
We have a unique online resource for 20- and 30-somethings looking to handle life and relationships well; see Boundless.org.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.