Magic at Midnight: Parenting with Heart

If you are looking for special one-on-one time with your kids and you’re not sure when to fit it in, I wouldn’t necessarily “recommend” late night conversations (what I call “magic at midnight”), but sometimes those are the best! My teenage daughter has consistently come to me late at night over the years to share things that are on her heart and mind, questions, life reflections and the like. I can’t tell you how often I have found myself looking at the clock and realizing it’s midnight and she is in full swing with a deep conversation. What to do?

This is when we have to prioritize, and it’s not always an easy choice. Do we get sleep for the next day (and our kids too) or do we take advantage of this opportunity (which doesn’t happen all the time) to connect, bond and understand this maturing human being in front of us?

Well I have opted for staying in the conversations and I’m so glad I have. It truly is magic at midnight. I’ve been able to make up the sleep (and she has too) much easier than we could EVER make up the quality and value that would be missed in those conversations not had.

My kids tend to be night owls (as do I) so I’m not super surprised that they come to me later in the day at times. I must admit that some of those days my eyes are very heavy. Sometimes they are shorter conversations and sometimes longer. Always worth it though!

If your kids are coming to you at an “inconvenient” time with an open heart and seeking connection, insight and understanding … do your best to prioritize that and take them up on it. Some things are just “in the moment” and you will not be able to capture that heart even an hour or a day later.

Interestingly, last week my teenage son (his favorite talk times tend to be when we are alone in the car) came to me late at night and surprised even himself with the reflections and questions he was mulling over about life and his future. We were up until 2:00 am! Fortunately it was during the summer! Magic at midnight in our house can come any time of year.

I am so grateful that my kids feel they can confide in me. That comes from building trust through connection over many years. I haven’t always been the perfect listener; they will definitely vouch for that. Even still, I get sidetracked and busy. Somehow my love and caring have been conveyed in such a way that I have remained approachable and trustworthy in their eyes. I thank God for that gift.

I see a lot of families who don’t have a deep connection and sense of trust built in when their children hit the teen years. It’s not impossible to get through that period of time without it, but it can be very painful and challenging. The key is to start listening when they are little. Being willing to stop to pick up a shell on the beach, watch a baby bird in a nest or look at a rolly polly bug on the sidewalk. Everything fascinates a two-year-old!

In a fast-paced world, there is often no room for the pace that toddlers and little ones so desperately need in order to experience life and grow. We want them to move quickly … because we are moving quickly. If you think back to when we were growing up, life had a much slower pace. Our kids have missed that. There is a lot of focus on academics as early as preschool and sometimes even when they are babies. Academics will come. Emotional well-being … that requires nurturing and a loving human being willing to take the time. It’s much harder to fill an emotional void than an academic one. Thus, “magic at midnight” moments are invaluable.

If you’ve missed opportunities over the years, join the club! I can’t begin to tell you how many opportunities I was “too busy” to take advantage of. We can sit in the guilt of what we’ve done wrong or we can decide to make a better choice today and move forward with our learning. We can choose to honor our child’s own compass and get to know who they are instead of pushing them to be the person others think they should be.

As a general rule, babies outgrow diapers. They naturally wean from breastfeeding. They give up pacifiers when they are ready (given the chance). They walk and talk in their own timing. We get so concerned that they are not going to keep up with other kids that we push them according to outside stimuli instead of teaching them to trust their own internal nature. It’s a delicate dance and we are afraid of coddling, enabling and holding them back. It’s not an easy place to be; parenting is challenging. There are so many choices and decisions to make every day. Thus, the term “conscious” parenting.

Look how many babies are induced unnecessarily. They can’t even choose their own birth day and time. (Sometimes it is a medical necessity and in those times we are grateful for interventions that keep our moms and babies alive and well.)

The next time your children are moving slower than you would like or they are “on strike” for yet another activity, you may want to ponder these three questions:

  • What is he really striking against? This activity or our lifestyle?
  • Am I honoring who he is and his pace in life? (without putting him in charge)
  • Am I steering my kids towards or away from trusting their own internal compass? (You may not be able to change the circumstances, but you can still have conversations that empower and educate your children about their own body’s needs.)

For the most part, we all get to the same milestones in life, some sooner than others. I don’t think if we are a little behind the curve that it means there’s something wrong with us or our children. Who created the curve anyway? I believe emotional health is tremendously valuable and does not get the attention that is required. Going slow and having nurturing in your life feeds the soul. Having “magic at midnight” conversations also feeds the soul. There is nothing that compares with a happy soul. When we let that go in favor of academics, attaining goals and awards or outside rules and influences, we can miss a key element deep within, one that is not easily restored.

The truth is we can only live in the present moment and do our best there. That’s something we need to model for our children. How can you slow down and let go of some of the busy-ness that creates stress instead of productivity? How can we stop raising a generation of workaholics (all day in school, homework at night and finish up on the weekends) and people who miss the very meaning of life? How will they parent the generation that follows? Just a thought.

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