“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today”—Unknown

The window at my kitchen sink gives me a bird’s-eye view of the happenings on my street. Recently, I witnessed a scene fit for a Norman Rockwell painting. Five-year-old Owen was side-by-side with the gardener, mowing the front lawn. Two guys pushing the mower. And it wasn’t just for a minute or two, as together they mowed the entire front grass field. My heart swelled. Not only did this guy have to be the world’s greatest gardener, but little Owen was one hard working and very happy boy. What a blast he had!

The scenes I am privy to fill me right up, especially the front yard activities of my across-the-street neighbor kids. Often it’s the girl-gang riding bikes (and racing up and down my driveway, the best incline on the block). But always it’s the three brothers, nine, seven, and five-year-old Owen, trampling their front sports field for every ball-sport imaginable. Regardless of the season, there is an ongoing game of soccer, baseball, sometimes football, always topped off by basketball in the adjacent driveway. I relish seeing it all.

And I am not the only one. Nightly my husband bursts through the kitchen door after work with exclamations about “the boys” playing on their front lawn. His sightings include the dad, Dylan. By then the boys’ dad has pulled up, dropped his brief case, and picked up his mitt. For this family every week day is punctuated by a front yard activity generated by the boys themselves, and the icing on the cake is when, after their work, Mom or Dad step up to the plate.

I wonder how many kids are so content right in their own yards. Parents today are plenty obsessed with mapping out their child’s life and destiny: soccer on Monday, tutor on Tuesday, ballet on Wednesday, tennis on Thursday, drama on Friday, gymnastics on Saturday, you fill in Sunday.  Whether or not all this extra-curricular-away-from-home stuff will get them into an Ivy League college is anyone’s guess. I do know that these families are missing the boat.

The most powerful element in the foundation of a child’s life is connectedness—his sense of belonging somewhere to someone, that his existence is significant. Children need to feel connected to each of their parents, and not just in name. It means togetherness on the home front. Sure the extras are memorable—the yearly trip to Hawaii, the Disney cruise, the front row seats to Miley Cyrus—but it is not these that make the difference. Connectedness happens every single day, in small doses, at home, in the context and business of daily life.

In the regular, simple moments connectedness is woven. It’s kind of like the frequent, small deposits in the bank that yield a big savings account down the road. Whether it’s doing sports or just simple household chores—mowing the lawn, changing a light bulb, hunting for snails, or picnicking on the front grass—connections grow in the fertile soil of everyday life, parent and child doing things together. The trick is taking the time to do them.

Betsy Brown Braun is the bestselling author of the award-winning Just Tell Me What to Say (HarperCollins 2008), and You’re Not the Boss of Me (HarperCollins, 2010), a bestseller in its fourth printing. A renowned child development and behavior specialist, popular parent educator, and mother of adult triplets, she is a frequent speaker at educational and business conferences, has been a guest expert on Today, the Early Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, Fox and Friends, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight, Rachel Ray, and NPR, and has been cited in USA Today, the New York Times, Family Circle, Parents, Parenting, Woman’s Day, Real Simple, and Good Housekeeping among countless other publications and websites.