The First Few Minutes Home

The entire evening was determined by the first few minutes after I walked in the door of our little apartment in the Chicago suburbs. Christine was at that time a stay at home mom and she had her hands full with two little kids barely a year a part in age. I was gone all day working a job or taking classes in seminary. Both of us were tired and needed a break. But what I learned is that the attitude I came home with would affect the whole family’s evening.

A lot has changed since then. We now have 4 kids and they are old enough that they aren’t waiting at the door to welcome either of us home. But what hasn’t changed is the power of those first few minutes through the door. That is still an incredibly important time to connect with each person in my family and often sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

An article in The Atlantic reports on a study done at UCLA of 32 dual earning, middle class families living in Los Angeles from 2001-2004. One of the findings is that moms usually were the first parent home and therefore received a more enthusiastic greeting from the kids. The study found that dads worked up to 2 hours longer and by the time they arrived at home the kids were involved in other things and were often unaware that he’d even arrived.

The temptation for both moms and dads is to seek out some time to themselves at the end of a long day. Maybe they’d like to sit down and read the paper, watch the news, or take a quick nap. Or maybe as much as they’d like to rest, they can’t afford to slow down and instead start right into making dinner, starting laundry, or making the grocery list.

This study tells us what we probably already know: It’s vital to seek out good relational contact with your spouse and kids. By checking in with each one, asking how their day was, and listening to what’s going on in their life, a parent can help build a warm, relational atmosphere.

As a rule younger kids seek out their parents but older kids have to be pursued. They are all too content to be left alone even when that isn’t what’s best for them. And every parent knows that technology hasn’t made relational connection any easier.

Back in those days in seminary I realized I had to come home in a good mood. I couldn’t let the stresses and worries of work and school sabotage my family. That often meant praying on the way home, giving my concerns to God, and asking him for strength, endurance, and patience. Over the years my family has changed but my need for God’s grace hasn’t.

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