Twenty touches

Each night my children and I spend anywhere between fifteen minutes and two hours together. Most of that time is spent reading before bedtime, but that time is also used to reconnect.

Many years ago, my wife and I attended a Gary Smalley seminar where he briefly mentioned the importance of touch. It’s something we all need to live. So I thought to myself that if I don’t supply my children with enough positive words and touches each day then there may come a time in their teen years that they look for that need elsewhere and end up experimenting with touch in ways that isn’t allowed outside of marriage.

So I asked my kids, “Do you get enough loving touches throughout the day: pats on the head, pats on the back, hugs, kisses… stuff like that?” They all answered “no”. So I wondered – how much do they need? Then came the question. “How many times do you feel you would need to know you are loved?” The eldest child only thought briefly before saying her answer: “Twenty times!”.

That’s quite a bit of touching to take place over the two to three hours I have available for them during the week days. With the size of my family, if everyone got 20 touches a day that would add up to 100 touches a day – not including our dog.

If that were spread throughout a three-hour-twenty-minute period it comes out to touching someone every 2 minutes.

I only remember getting a meaningful touch about once every other week growing up, which was still more than most of the kids I knew. I’ll bet our society has even pulled back to the point that children are only given a meaningful touch once a month, and that’s reserved for when the child initiates the hug.

One last thought – giving my children that access to my personal space makes me a tangible figure for them. I become more real and more accessible in ways beyond the physical. Hopefully they’ll learn that and come to their real accessible Dad during the more trying years ahead.

Time

Maybe by getting older and having kids, time has become more valuable. I didn’t think much of it as a kid, hence the often yelled “We’re Waiting On You!” phrase that I heard growing up.

But as I was sifting through some well kept day planner pages from 2001 and 2002 I realized something. For two years I worked an average of 60 hours a week. Seeing that and realizing how little that got me in my career, and how much time I didn’t get with my family, I just shake my head in disgust.

How could I have been such an idiot? Not that I don’t mind working extra hours, but when you have an additional 900+ hours of work (above the regular work hours) in just one year alone … sheesh.

What could I have done with those 900 hours? Write more songs? Be a better dad? Be a better husband? What good did it do me to plug in 14 hour days on a regular basis? To add more injury to myself, I didn’t use up all my vacation time for that time … haven’t used my vacation time appropriately for years. As a result, I feel tired most of the time. My kids aren’t as close to me as I’d like and my marriage isn’t as strong as it should be. Neither is my walk with God.

I’m grateful that I took the time to record those hours. I quickly forget how long I’ve been pushing myself so hard and how worthless it all is. No rewards all around.

Looking at this, the question is – how do I change? What can I do to make the future better? Hours have already been cut back at work thanks to a change in position. I have to admit that I was upset at first, but it’s nice to be working a normal 40-45 hour week. I have to admit that I’ve contemplated a major uproot and taking my family to Italy or Spain where I hear of 30 hour work weeks, mid-day siestas and higher family values. Well – no Spain for us, at least not for now. But I need to make the time with my family precious. Not precious as in it’s so rare, but precious as in it’s so common they feel my absence when I’m not there.