Taking Time Out to Play


The first three weeks of summer have been really busy. We left the day school got out for a family reunion. When we got home, my older daughter had soccer camp and soccer tryouts. This week we have Vacation Bible School. I've been struggling to fit freelance projects in around the girls' activities. It seems there hasn't been much time to relax and just breathe.

The other night, it all caught up with my younger daughter. "You never have time to play with me," she sobbed. She's right. There hasn't been much play time available in the past few weeks. We've run from one thing to another.

So, yesterday, I cleared the decks on my schedule, we dumped the Lego bin on the floor, and we played Legos. My older daughter even came down and got in the act. My flying saucer chased my younger daughter's Lego ship around the room for a while. (In an epic battle, my guy finally lost.) We spent a couple of hours just playing together.

I'd like to say those hours made a world of difference in my daughter's attitude, but the truth is she's still pretty tired and cranky. But that's not what matters. What matters is this: Despite the busyness of the schedule, my daughter knows that she is loved.

It's easy to push aside our kids' need for some undivided attention. We count all the hours we spend taking them places and all the activities we attend for them, and we think that we're spending time with them. But sometimes our kids just need us to take a break. They need us to make time to simply play with them, talk to them and be silly with them.

They don't always need a structured activity or another play date. What they need is us. What they need is to know that we can clear the decks on the schedule and make the time to play or dance or listen. Because that's what God does for us.

God is never too busy, never too far away to be there for us, to give us what we need. He's always there, always waiting for us to spend time with him, to lay our burdens at His feet, to give us what we need to be refreshed. The Bible tells us that God is always with us (Matthew 28:20). It tells us that He is always ready to listen (1 John 5:14). And it tells us that He always cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

While we want our kids to rely on God to take care of them, we need to be a picture of God to them. We need to love them with His love. And sometimes that means we play a game of basketball on the driveway instead of watching our favorite TV program. Sometimes it means we carve out an evening to take a child out for dinner so we can really listen to what he has to say. Sometimes it means we set aside the deadlines and the stress of the day to build a Lego UFO.

Taking some time out to play with or listen to your child may not immediately improve the attitudes in your house, but it goes a long way toward strengthening your relationship with your child.

How can you let your kids know that they are loved? How can you refill their emotional tanks?