It’s a sweeping cliché in the parenthood world that time flies by and you should enjoy your little ones while they are still, ya know, little. We all know this, we all hear it and we all say it, so why aren’t we putting it into practice? I know for myself, the issue isn’t as much that I don’t have the time as it that I am not enjoying the time that I do have.
You know how it goes. You plan out an evening of playing Pretty Pretty Princess with your 4 year old daughter. She’s excited, you’re excited (sort of), but when the time comes all you think about is your to-do list that sits idly in that notebook over there on the counter. You want to enjoy the time with your little princess, but the squirrels in your head seem to have other plans.
We want so badly to soak up the time we have with our children, but somehow lose sight of how to enjoy it.
Here are a few ways to get back the fun of spending time with your kids, no matter what age they are.
1. Remember what it was like to be their age: Aside from the reeeally young years, it is pretty easy to remember back to the days of being a child. Even if all you have are a few memories from that age, I bet they are filled with laughter and love. That is how nostalgia works. We brush over the negative and remember only the butterflies and unicorns of yesteryear. If you want to enjoy the moments with your child, remember back to a time when you were the same age. Don’t you remember how tall you felt atop your dad’s shoulders, how free you felt when your mom spun you around in circles, or how loved you felt when your mom would spend the afternoon teaching you how to bake cookies, or draw, or drive? It is easy to get caught up in adulthood, where fun is sometimes nothing more than an exit on the highway of life, but remembering back to the age of our children can bring us back to the fun of being young and help us enjoy the moments we have with them.
2. Ask them what they want to do: Have you ever planned an activity or outing with your kids, thinking “Aw, damn. They are gonna be stoked!” only to realize that your kids are so not into that? Not only is it a bummer, but no one really enjoys themselves. Instead, ask your kids what they want to do. Do they want you to join them for an exclusive tea party, or go bike riding, or hiking, or sit and draw? Maybe they want to go roller skating and sit and listen to you tell them stories. Perhaps all they want is to run around the yard for a half hour and play tag until you are both so exhausted, you fall to the ground and giggle. It is always more enjoyable to be with a willing participant and kids love to feel that they have some control over what they do (even if it is just an illusion.)
3. Be spontaneous: Nothing can spoil your happiness like planning something for a long time, only to have something sabotage it. Something like a sick kid or bad weather can put a really bad taste in your mouth and although I am a firm lover of all things planning and organization, I also know the joy that comes with being unplanned and impromptu. Some of the best times I have ever spent with my kids and husband have been on a Sunday when I woke up and said “Ok. Pack up. We’re driving up to Lake Placid today.” Or “Let’s do a waffle bar for dinner!” It is in those moments that I am truly happy and joyful because I know that I am totally present and in the moment.
4. Schedule one on one time: This is the exact opposite of the last tip, but bears just as much weight. Kids of all ages, whether they want to admit it or not (and many older kids won’t) want 1-1 time with their parents. They want to the center of attention and feel like their specific needs are being met. The best way to do this is to schedule is. Maybe you have a standing date with each of your kids once a month. You can switch up what you do or where you go, but having that date to look forward to makes the time together so much more lovely.
5. Be. Totally. Present: There is nothing that steals the joy away from a moment with your kiddos like spending the entire time thinking about the past or the future. Our mom minds are labyrinths of whats and hows and whens and what ifs. Although it serves us to be thinking one step ahead when it comes to planning, it makes specials moments with our children less enjoyable. Try to be totally present when you are with your kids. Notice their smile, the way they walk, how they talk to you, what they pretend to be. Soak up every second you can. This is often easier said than done and takes practice. We are so focused on so many things that it is our default to be thinking about something else no matter where we are. Break out of it, see the time with your kids as special and precious and enjoy.
However you choose and spend and enjoy time with your children, don’t judge yourself too much or beat yourself up either. Chances are, they won’t remember all the things we didn’t do but wishes we had, they’ll remember all the times you made an effort to enjoy their company.
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