April Jeppson: Don’t go through life living on autopilot

Published 8:50 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

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Every Little Thing
By April Jeppson

I loved spending time with my grandma growing up. We only lived about 10 miles away from each other, so I was at her house often. Cleaning beans in the kitchen, playing cribbage after lunch, dusting her nicknacks while she washed the dishes — it didn’t matter what we did. I was with my grandma and I loved it.

My folks live about four hours away, so my children don’t get to spend as much time with their grandparents as I did. I’m fortunate, however, to have parents who willingly whisk my children off during the summer when they are able. My kids look forward to this one-on-one time every year.

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Our family isn’t huge, but group decisions can still take awhile. Trying to agree on a movie during family night can be oddly difficult. So when my kids are alone and they don’t have to present a Powerpoint presentation on why “Spiderman” should be the film of the week, they are thrilled. An entire week all to themselves is pure gold.

It’s not just about getting whatever they want either. The moments that make their eyes brighten the widest are the simple ones. My son’s favorite moments with his grandpa are when they get to watch a movie together. He loves the banter during the film and the conversations afterwards.

My youngest loves playing with Legos. My mother has the best set-up, tackle boxes filled with organized compartments. My daughter will play Legos before breakfast, after breakfast and any downtime that she can find. The best part? My mom will sit down and build right beside her.

Adults are distracted and on their phones. Kids now have phones and are equally distracted. There are many times when families are together, yet are separately on their phones. Humans need socialization. We crave eye contact and hugs from those we love. So when my children have their grandparents’ attention all to themselves, it is like enjoying ice cream on a hot summer day.

Whenever I spend time with my folks, I’m acutely aware of what I’m doing. Am I pretending to watch TV while I play on my phone? Is my daughter trying to talk to me while I’m actually watching TV? We go through life sometimes on autopilot, especially when we are tired. After a long day, I barely have the energy to figure out what to eat. So when my son wants to discuss the latest installment to his favorite film series, sadly, I’ve found myself asking him for a raincheck. Can we do this later buddy?

It breaks my heart a bit to type that out. I know that parents everywhere have told their kids to leave them alone at one time or another. I think the trick is that those incidents should be the exception and not the rule. I don’t want to be known as the parent who was too busy. I don’t want my kids to think that they need to do something extraordinary to get my undivided attention. They are worthy simply because they are my children.

My daughter just got back from a few days with my parents. Tonight I finally have all my kids under my roof again, and my heart is full. Hearing about how much my child loved their visit reminds me that I can be better. I don’t have to spend a ton of money or go to exotic places with my children. I simply need to put away the distractions and give them what they’ve always wanted, my time.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.