Connection, Connection, Connection
In being close and present for their children, parents need to do what works for them. They need to find that balance between being parents and being themselves. That being said, your child is only an infant once and only a toddler for a year or so. This is not time you can ever get back if you decide later that you wished you had been more present. So that's my bias. Spend as much time as you can in the early years. No one is more important to your child than you are. I don't mean that your child is not going to thrive if she doesn't get your undivided attention, but who better than you to provide her the emotional security she needs to risk exploring the world?
We are social creatures. That means right from the get go our babies are looking to connect with us, to communicate with us. When we slow down and take the time to just be with our babies, we naturally fall into the attentive give and take on which infants thrive. They look to us to provide emotional reassurance and to provide the vocabulary which helps them organize and make sense of experiences. As babies begin to toddle, they move away from us, but we are still the home base they look back to. (more) Our calm, open, enthusiastic presence is what allows them to explore. As they move into the preschool years--even as they are making friends and spending time with teachers and peers--it is the routines and traditions of home that keep them grounded.
I firmly believe in families deliberately creating time and space in the day for ritualized connection. There are as many ways to do that as there are families. One family I know of has snuggle time in Mom and Dad's bed for 5 minutes every day. Another family I know of shares "one good thing" as each family member lights a candle at the dinner table. Many parents put love notes in their children's lunches to connect them even when they are physically apart. When I was a child, I went most Saturday mornings with my dad to his office. I would play office worker for a few hours and on the way home we would stop and get donuts for the rest of the family. Other families have weekly "dates" after school or practice.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Connecting to your children is the closest thing to a silver bullet parenting has for creating a peaceful, harmonious home. Whatever time and effort it takes to attend to the relationships in the family first and foremost are worth it.
I can't wait to hear: What are the things you do in your family to stay close and connected?