This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

I really like the wordplay in that post title…don’t you? I didn’t come up with it myself (thank you friends at the Early Learning Hub!) but I really enjoy a good pun and also really appreciate the meaning behind the phrase. Our presence is so important and needed by our children in order to thrive, and if we’re honest with ourselves it can be really difficult to feel like we’re giving them enough of it sometimes.

However, something I’ve learned from my experience and my studies on my parenting journey is that our presence and full attention to our children doesn’t need to be constant…although it may seem like they disagree. In fact, short spurts of direct, undivided attention after a period of disconnect have been shown to have a tremendous impact on our relationships with them and on their feelings of enjoyment and self-worth

If you are anything like me you are pretty good at being hard on yourself and focusing on the ways you can improve rather than praising yourself for what you do well. There have been plenty of times when I wish I could go back and be less distracted, or wish I could have given them a few more minutes of play or cuddle time. However, I have taken a lot of solace from what I have learned about children being able to thrive and have their cups filled by short periods of direct, undivided attention from parents…especially after periods of disconnect and not having their needs met. We don’t have to meet every single request they have or say yes to everything they ask of us…we just can’t!

But, what we can do is put down our work, put down our phones, (try to) put down our worries for a few minutes and get on the floor and play. We can give them a few minutes (start with 10-15) of pure and undivided attention to show them that we care about them and their needs…that we are interested in them and what they have to say…and that we love them and enjoy spending time with them doing things that they like to do. Once we’ve done this, we can let them play again on their own while attending to the myriad of responsibilities that we have. The more we do this the more that we’ll find our kids don’t need all of our attention all of the time, but that they love the focused time they get with us without distractions and look forward to the next time when we can put aside everything else and simply be with them.

So…during this season…I encourage you to focus on the gift that will cost the least in terms of money, but provide the biggest value to both you and your child…the gift of you just being with and enjoying your time with them.

This is fatherhood…