One of the parenting challenges that is not often talked about is simply staying engaged as a parent. No Mom or Dad wants to admit that, sometimes, they just aren’t paying attention to their kids. You see it all the time in public places. Moms and Dads at the mall are often more interested in shopping than they are in paying attention to their kids.

I’m guilty of this from time to time, as we all are, but the rewards of staying engaged, and engaging our kids, are large.

Saturday night Nick and I were playing with a wooden cut-out puzzle; you know the type, a plywood board with animal shapes cut out of it, with little handles to manipulate the pieces. Nick was concentrating hard to get the frog back into its proper place when it suddenly popped back in. His look of earnest concentration changed into a smile instantly. BUT, when I took in a deep breath, opened up a huge smile and boomed out “Yeah Nicky! Good job! You are such a smart boy!!!” while clapping, his face changed again.

His smile grew exponentially, and his face took on an expression of absolute joy. You could tell that he was experiencing the warm feeling of pride glowing in his chest; it was written all over his face.

As parents, you know that there is nothing in the world that compares to the feeling I had seeing this. Of course, this feeling is not something you can plan, it is a reward for staying engaged; it is a reward for paying attention to your kid’s life.

That’s something for me to keep in mind the next time I notice I’m watching the Backyardigans a little more closely than he is.