The mundane. The daily grind. Work, playtime, meals/cleanup (x 3 or more if you count snack time with littles), commute, errands, story time, bedtime, exercise. Sometimes I get so caught in to-do lists, or the nagging feeling that I need to get something done. It happens to us all. I’ve noticed, though, that when I’m with my children, I’m distracted and discontented. Frustrated. And they can tell!
Add to that weekends structured around trips to the children’s museum, the library (for the umpteenth time), re-reading Goodnight Moon over and over, and scanning Pinterest for those low-prep, age-appropriate, developmental activities, you may feel a bit overwhelmed (I do!). Or crabby. My head is spinning as I think about all of my unused pins collecting cyber dust on my “Kids” board.
In the past, my husband and I have had this idea of structuring our time with mostly kid-centered activities, and then trying to fit our own things around them. We’d spend our Saturday mornings at a kid-friendly public place – from the children’s museum, to a bounce house, to all the parks in the summertime.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely and advocate of doing kid-centered activities. Kids are kids and want to have fun, and parents who do things that their kids will enjoy – even if it’s nothing fancy, are doing one of the best things possible for their children!
I just think there should be a balance, am I right? Parents cannot always center family time entirely on their children. We used to do this, and we quickly found ourselves burned out. It is not practical, and no matter how noble it seems, you may eventually feel bitter, or maybe even a little resentful.
Plus, since when did we as parents lose our place in the family? Did we forget that there are things that we as parents may enjoy doing? What if put value on things we love and invite our children into that with us?? Couldn’t we possibly welcome them into the excitement of something that they have not yet experienced?
From our own joy in doing the activity with them, we inspire, we encourage, and expose them to something new!
Recently, our family went on our first “real” vacation. You know, the one that we planned months in advanced, and booked out of excitement and a healthy dose of…desperation. After a LONG winter, with a deficiency of sun and an abundance of indoor excursions, we craved some sunlight, beaches, and sand! Living in our community, we have an abundance of kid-centered activities that we can do, but that also means that we are constantly on the go doing those!
Going somewhere to do something, anything that we enjoyed was probably one of the best “parenting” decisions that we’ve made thus far. Were we apprehensive? Yes. I mean, a flight with a 1.5 year old who just entered the full-out tantrum stage, and the 3 year old with no lack of energy, we were sure to lose our minds, or so we thought. Did I mention that my husband and I aren’t exactly easy-going super-parents? Oh yeah, so there’s that…
BUT, the vacation ended up being awesome and for the best. Throughout our time away, I had moments of pure awe. I was actually LOVING time away with them! Ok, so part of it was definitely the warmth and sunshine, but I think another large part was the fact that we had some sweet times!
As our children laughed and giggled while sprinkling sand on their legs and wiggling their toes in it, my husband and I sat there with our sunglasses on gazing at the panoramic ocean view…we were in heaven!
That week was a defining moment for me during my (short) time as a parent thus far. It felt amazing. My husband and I felt like we were winning at this whole parenting thing. Ok, so for a week, our kiddos had an overload of sugar via ice cream and chocolate milk, and suckers on the plane, and oh, there was a LOT of screen time while we tried to cut ourselves some slack.
But we were actually enjoying our children. Maybe even delighting in them! Yes, those moments come and go in the day to day, but in doing activities that we enjoyed, we were less distracted with thinking about what we’d rather be doing, and more focused on the moment. It was amazing!
So, what did I learn from this vacation? Well, we can still apply these same principles to our day to day. Mix it up! Plan some activities that are definitely kiddo-friendly, but also plan things that YOU enjoy! Why not take your kiddos out to your favorite local restaurant, so you can get a delicious seasonal special? Or, what about taking your 10 year old to a concert so you can introduce the joy of music to them? What about camping to appreciate the outdoors? It may be more of a “field trip,” than a vacation (in that there will definitely be stressful moments and maybe even a meltdown or two), but maybe there’s a small chance that you’ll ALL have fun.
We all know what it is like to take a step back and to truly delight in something. We see it in our children’s eyes when they stop to pick a weed that they think is beautiful, or when you hear them squeal with happiness while you push them on the swings! Why not let them see you do the same…or “geek out” over something that YOU enjoy?!
I think we can all agree that teaching your children different interests and to experience something new is SO important. That may mean trying new activities or doing something because it’s someone else’s turn to pick. Well, you can be that person once in awhile and NOT feel any guilt.
YOU are a part of the family too!