I laugh out loud every time I read Garrison Keillor’s tall tales – “My father always said that you can’t plant corn and date women at the same time. It just doesn’t work. You can only do one thing at a time.” Aside from the seemingly missed relevance of corn and dating, this statement holds some merit. For example, you can’t sneeze and hold your eyes open at the same time.

While having only two hands hinders are ability to do countless tasks at once, most of us have been forced to learn how to multi-task. That is, we are doing several unrelated things all at the same time, each of which has the same level of critical need. In translation, it means churning 72 hours of “to do’s” into a single day in order to make room for tomorrow’s “to do’s.”

Countless parents would agree that the finite number of hours each day and infinite number of responsibilities leave little time for that precious “us” time. You know, that time when you go out to dinner with your spouse or partner and gaze longingly into each other’s eyes, or take a walk out to the lighthouse at dusk to watch the waves for hours.

When a baby arrives, date nights are substituted for sleepless nights. You go from diaper changes to science projects without missing a beat. When my girls were younger, I remember that for weeks at a time I would never even see our living room. I never quite made it out of the kitchen.

Parenting our children is our most important role in life; as parents, we are charged with the blessing and responsibility of raising our children to be productive members of society. That’s not just dreamy parenting talk, it’s been scientifically proven.

According to research, “Nurturing a child early in life may help him or her develop a larger hippocampus, the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses, a new study shows. Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampal volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.” (LiveScience, 2012)

Most mental health professionals from Dr. Spock to Dr. Phil advise, that in order to build a strong family, you need to have a strong foundation. Children learn from their parents: how to treat others with love and respect; how to have compassion and empathy; how to express opinions and resolve differences; how to laugh and have fun; how to work and play.

Children learn how to treat their future partners by how they see their parents treating each other. It is vital for parents to model these healthy virtues and behaviors at home so that their children may learn to develop them. Of course, children will see their parents in disagreements; but seeing how you handle those rough moments teaches your children how to handle them.

Stephen Bavolek, PhD, an expert in the field of child abuse and neglect prevention and treatment notes in his article, The Art and Science of Raising Children, “Parents whose physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs are not being met will have difficulty in meeting the needs of their children.” So, that “us” time can actually help you become a better parent.

With springtime upon us, everything seems new again. Renew the closest adult relationship in your life with some well-deserved “us” time. Ask a friend or relative to watch your children. Go to dinner, a movie or walk along the beach. Share a hot chocolate. Laugh. Hold hands. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; the idea of “us” time is to bring the two of you together without the distractions of the outside world.

Forget about Mr. Keillor’s contention that you can’t plant corn and date women at the same time. Even corn farmers take their wives out on a date now and then.

And, remember this advice from Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at pam@dunebrook.org.


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