Where does time fit in with building better relationships? For me, I used to take my relationships for granted. I wasn't clear on what I wanted from them or my role in them. I walked around assuming that my husband was around for the duration and my kids would like to have a relationship with me as they grew up. From this space, I unintentionally created manuals for how everyone should act and what they should do. When they didn't follow my manuals, I expressed a lot of judgment and criticism. My manuals were designed to keep everything running efficiently and on time, not build connection and understanding.
Let's examine the morning ride to school. There are two ways to get my kids to school. There is a bus stop that is 10 minutes from our home or a 30-minute commute, one way. Per my manual, the kids (ages 12 and 14) should wake up on time, get ready without complaint, and be in the car in time to easily meet the bus. When this didn't occur, several mornings per week, I showed up as the Wicked Witch of the West. I yelled, I criticized, I shamed, I judged, and I threatened. Then I was ashamed, apologized, and felt guilty. This cycle took plenty of time, but it didn't create the relationships I wanted with my kids.
Time was part of the reason I felt pressure to lash out. The hour round-trip wasn't part of my plan for the day. My thought, "I'm already behind today," created the feeling of panic. The yelling, criticism, and threats were a result of that panicked feeling. Ultimately, I put myself further behind because then I had to deal with apologies, shame, and guilt that distracted me from getting my day back on track.
Since I learned to see these patterns and understand them, I have changed my approach. Instead of expecting teenagers to show up the way I thought they should. I decided who I wanted to be. I changed my schedule to allow us to miss the bus. If I can't drive, I either inform the kids that I have a deadline, and they will need to find another ride if they aren't ready in time, or I ask my husband to be responsible for getting them to school that morning. I allow them to ask the night before if they want me to drive them to school and allow an extra 15 minutes of sleep. On days that the bus ride is necessary, I communicate it in advance and set the consequence of losing their phones for the day if we don't make it.
I now look at the drive to school as 30 minutes to be with my kids and talk or simply be a presence. During the 30 minute ride home, I can enjoy being by myself and listening to podcast no one else is interested in.
All of this takes time. But intentional, planned time is more efficient and effective than reacting to an unrealistic plan. It takes time to set boundaries and enforce consequences. It takes time to decide how I want to show up. It takes time to figure where I have unexpressed expectations, to react badly, and to deal with the fallout of my poor showing.
Also, relationships aren't static. Creating time and space to be available to the people we love is the lifeblood of relationships. Relationships shift and evolve over time. What worked well when my kids were younger doesn't create a connection now. Most importantly, we only control how we show up for a relationship. There is nothing wrong with saying what we can do and when. The problems come when we judge how the other person acts during our time with them.
I can choose to be disappointed if my kids don't want to talk on the ride to school or resentful if they don't appreciate the time it takes to drive to school. I can blame them for not taking advantage of our time together. Or I can think I'm an amazing mom who keeps the radio off and thinks loving thoughts about them for 30 minutes a morning. I'm there for when they do need to get something off their chests.
Where do you need to create space for the relationships that matter to you? Where are you wasting your time expecting the other person to show up a particular way? Where are you reacting to what the other person does and then spending your time on apologies, shame, and guilt? How can you use your time most effectively to nurture your relationships with no expectations of the other person?