Do you ever catch yourself counting down the moments until your kids' bedtime? I can relate. Some evenings, my tank of parenting energy runs a little low, and I look forward to tucking the boys in, praying with them and closing the door on another day. Then I can enjoy an hour or two of a quiet house, a little time to catch up with my wife, read a good book or hack out a few emails that I'd been meaning to get to. Don't most parents need that time to debrief — and decompress?
Some nights, the nighttime routine takes a little longer, particularly with Trent, my oldest son. Trent's personality seems to come alive at night, with a burst of energy, ideas and questions. Honestly, it would be easier sometimes to not engage Trent in his nightly talks. But some of my best conversations with Trent have occurred in those final moments in the dark, and I never regret giving up a few minutes of relaxation to build those connections.
Not long ago, I heard a series of tapping noises coming from the boys' rooms. It was long past bedtime, and I was about to knock on the doors with an authoritative "Go to sleep!" when I heard something that lifted my heart: giggling. So I slipped into Troy's room and asked what was up.
"It's mouse code, Dad."
"You mean Morse code?"
It wasn't actually Morse code, of course, but whatever version they had created, they were trying it out through their bedroom walls. I spent the next few minutes helping Troy "talk" to his brother. Then I went to Trent's room and laughed with him as he struggled to figure out what his brother was saying. It was a brief playtime, maybe 10 minutes, but it occurred to me that I'd almost missed an opportunity for a memorable moment with my kids.
To be clear, I'm not saying that we should always be the fun-loving parent who pushes the limits of reasonable bedtimes and consistent family schedules. But I don't want to ignore opportunities, either. The years that we have with our children go by so quickly, and if we're not careful, we'll miss the little moments that invite us to create a memory, share a laugh, grow a little closer.
As for time spent relaxing in a quiet house . . . Well, I suppose the day is coming when my wife and I will have more of that than we know what to do with.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family broadcast. His daily column is available at JimDalyblog.com.