So your kids are a priority. Fantastic! But can you identify with this? Ever confuse being in the same room with being connected? I do. And sometimes I have to watch that I don’t abandon my family without meaning to.

Life is trying. And the longer you live, the more you realize it’s also a bit exhausting. Especially for parents. Sometimes when I get home, I’m physically present but mentally tuned out.

As parents, we say we want to connect with our kids, but there are moments and seasons where even the best intentioned parent can really miss doing it.

There are more than a few ways to be absent while being present:

Make watching TV the #1 activity you do together as a family (you’re in the room, but no one is talking to each other.)

Keep your phones on while having dinner.

Let your kids mostly play by themselves or with friends…leaving you free to do what you want.

Pretend to listen while your kids are talking, but don’t actually hear what they say.

Pursue a hobby that you spend more time on than your family.

Bring work home and do it while the kids are still up.

Spend lots of your free time with your ear buds in and music on.

Get lost in a book and make sure your kids don’t disturb you.

Have adult friends over all the time so your kids have to entertain themselves.

Spend lots of your free time in the garage/on the golf course/at the gym/on your bike.

Now, before you think I’m being judgmental, please know I’ve been guilty of pretty much all of this in various seasons as a parent. And please realize that none of these things are bad in and of themselves (books, biking, adult conversations, music, great shows – fantastic!). Many are indeed great things that refuel us and make us better.

But here’s the tension I struggle with. Because relationships are work, sometimes it’s easier for me to tune out than it is to tune in. Sometimes it’s easier to get lost in my own world than engage in theirs. It’s very possible to abandon my family–even for a season or a night–without ever leaving.

Relationship is work, and it requires perseverance–not only in not leaving, but in staying present, focused and engaged in the little moments and in the big moments. And whenever I remind myself of that, I’ll close the laptop, snap my attention back toward those in the room with me, and get ready to spend energy on those I love the most. Sometimes after a long day or in a busy season, do you know what best describes what you and I need to do in that moment? Persevere.

What helps you stay focused and engaged with your family? What helps you persevere in the relationships that matter most?