It seems these days there are so many distractions and so much noise. So much that it’s a challenge to be present for our kids. I find myself rushing through the day and moving from one activity or location to the next. It is exhausting! There are days I just don’t want to do anything but lie in bed with the kiddos and husby if he’s home. Some mornings it happens, most mornings we wake up in a frenzy just 30 minutes before we have to leave to drop Pinky off at school. Oh but back to that bed. The bed is my favorite place to snuggle and cuddle, kiss and tickle. I love the lighting in our bedroom during the day. When the kids were babies I’d have mini photo sessions with them complete with pillows to prop them up and blankets that doubled as backdrops. It was fun. I didn’t have anything to do but indulge in the blessings of my babies. In those moments, they had my utter attention.
I had more than one baby. They grew older. They made more messes. They made laundry day even less desirable. They demanded more of me than just hugs and kisses. They started talking back. They started eating more. They just needed and still need more. More of me, that sometimes I feel I cannot give. But I give it anyway, out of love and sometimes after a massive meltdown or epic mom failure.
I’ve come to realize that all our kids really want is our undivided attention. I know we can’t give it to them 24/7, but we can give it to them often and more frequently than we do, at least try. All the things I mentioned above, the laundry, cooking so they can eat, cleaning up after their messes, it seems to never end. But the reality is that one day it will. One day we will wake up and our homes will be clean, quiet and empty. I can’t say that I am looking forward to that day. On the other hand, Daddy might have a different opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Daddy and we could always use more alone time, but that’s a whole other topic.
This crazy time seems so big right now, but it’s only a fraction of the time spent with our little ones. We hear it all the time, “it will be over before you know it.” Don’t wait until that moment to change. Life is crazy, and these sleepless nights and messy days should build us up, not bring us down. They shape us. Our children make us better. They should. It’s all about perspective, parents.
I’m not here today to talk about an empty nest, embracing the mom guilt, and I am definitely not saying that having our kids move on is a sad thing; it’s going to be glorious, emotional, but glorious. I’m here to talk about the now. On that “one day” we will be proud. Let’s be able to look back and say that we did everything we could to show them that we cared for them, loved them, nurtured them, supported them, and were truly present for them. Ready for some tough love?
Here are 6 ways we, myself included, can all be present for our kids even during the craziest of days.
1. Get off your phone! I know, I know. It sounds so simple, but why is it so hard? I have a love-hate relationship with my cell phone. When I’m on it my kids can’t tell if I’m using it for business or pleasure. I love that I can use my phone to snap photos, send emails, listen to music, track my calendar and update social media. I almost hate it for the same reasons. We depend on our phones for so many things that it becomes hard to put it down. On top of that the kids are constantly asking, “can I watch on your phone?” or “Mommy, games?” Our kids model what we do, and being on the phone is not an exception. They don’t know any better. So let’s start teaching them.
Make a rule that no phones are allowed between certain times of the day. For example, I’ve tried to enforce no phones during dinner, especially at the table. We’re still working on that, but we’re getting there. I know some families who drop all their electronics in a basket when they get home and are not to touch them until after dinner. Mad props to those families who are holding it down.
In all seriousness, please get off the phone. If you need to be on it, explain to your kids why you are going to use it and give them a time frame of how long you will be on it. Setting expectations might help them understand that you’re not playing games or on Facebook all day. If at all possible, try to not use the phone other than to actually talk to someone when the kids are around.
2. Get down and give them your full attention. Get down and play with your kids. This is a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to play or play the way my child wants me to. What I have learned is that if we just get down and sit with them, they are content. All they really want is for you to watch them or ask them questions about their world of make believe, and maybe even validate it, at least that’s what I think. I’m no child psychologist, but my kids usually just want me to watch them play, and be on stand-by if they need me to help them with something. Once I turn my attention away, they’ll call me over again. But I do my best to give them at least 10-15 minutes of my full attention before going back to what I was doing.
3. Find something you both love to do. If playing with dolls or cars aren’t your thing. Play around with the idea of playing around. Trying new things with your kids will create great memories, and give you both the ability to bond over something, well new. It’s exciting. Have a meeting with your kid(s) and talk about what they like and share some things you like to do with them. You are bound to find something you both can enjoy together, and it will be a fun process.
4. Set aside a special time just for them. This could be a daily thing or a weekly thing. If you have multiple children, be sure to schedule regular dates with them individually. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but they each need and crave that special time where they can have you and/ or Daddy all to themselves. You know, feel like they’re the only child for a few hours. This time could be 15 minutes before or after school or work where you just focus on them. Kiss them, hug them and play around with them. Have you and your spouse take turns getting them ready for bed each night, that way each kid gets a little love from mom and dad during the week. If you have more time take them out for yogurt or to the park. Be at their beck and call for 30 minutes to an hour. If they have extracurricular activities, make sure you wave to them during practice so they know you’re actually watching them. It’s those little moments that really count and make them giddy with love for you.
5. Stop what you’re doing. This is another challenging thing to do, especially when you are in the middle of something and you’re, “almost done!” I am guilty of saying this one too many times whether I’m washing dishes, folding clothes or finishing this blog post. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier. The mess, the clothes, the dishes, they will always be there. Your kids won’t. When they ask you a question, stop what you’re doing. When they run up to you and hug you, stop what you’re doing, look into their eyes and hug them. Tell them how much you love them. Sometimes they’ll go back to playing and sometimes they’ll want to stay with you. If you need a few more minutes to wrap up what you’re doing, let them know. But make sure you get back to them within the time you told them. Otherwise, you’re in for a fight! Those little bursts of love are amazing and can help fuel both us parents and our little ones.
6. Host family meetings regularly. This is something new we started and it’s been a great way to sit down and talk to one another about what’s been going on at school, home, and work. We have as simple format where we pray, go around and share something we are thankful for and/or proud of, then we share something we are working on. We also discuss what we want to eat for the week ahead and any special activities we need to be aware of. The little man is still too small to understand, he participates sometimes, but it is great for Pinky because she gets to talk without interuption. We ask her questions and give her the opportunity to share her thoughts and vice versa on a variety of topics. We close in prayer. Sometimes after our meetings we’ll watch a movie, play games or read some books. I think these will only become more valuable as we get older.
Now, I’m sure there are many more ways we can be present for our kids. These are the ones that stand out to me at the moment, the ones I personally need to work. It’s a process and a mind shift, but one I’m willing to make because I know I won’t have these little moments for long. I hope you’ll do the same.
What are some ways you make sure you’re present for your kids? Please share your ideas with us in the comments below.