Thursday, March 12, 2015

Good News for Tired Parents

It's part of our family rhythm to go to the Y after I pick the kids up from daycare and before we go home for supper, most days of the week.  I've heard other moms say that they feel bad bringing their kids to childwatch after bringing them to daycare all day as well, but I had to give up that guilt awhile ago for my own well-being.  If I don't have time to exercise, my kids aren't going to like being around me those extra 30 minutes very much, I can tell you that.

When I was there yesterday, I remarked to another mom how I would love to find a way to exercise and sleep at the same time.  I need both to feel at my best, but lately it rarely feels like I get enough of either one.  This other mom assured me that if I ever figured out a way to do that, she would pay me for the how-to! :)

I don't like feeling tired, but there is one good thing that has come of it: I am convinced I don't need to add more things to our plate, spreading us even thinner.  Like I've written before, it's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like I need to provide our kids with as many opportunities as possible- swimming, gymnastics, soccer, dance, music, art, and outdoor adventures.  There's no doubt all of these things are great, but the problem is when I think I have to find a way to fit them all in at the same time.  At least for me, it's not possible, so I'm much better off not putting the extra pressure on myself to do so.

When it comes down to it, time and time again, I am reminded that the thing my kids want most from me is time together.  Esme wants to go to work with me and she loves baking or doing a project together; Reid loves going to the grocery store and helping us clean.  And perhaps more than anything, they both love to have Thomas and me simply sit down and play.  "Will you play with me, Mommy?" Esme asks.  "Mommy, com' 'n," Reid often says with his growing verbal skills, beckoning us with his hand.

I think this reality is good news for tired parents.  Because it reminds me that my kids don't necessarily need more activities and more things to do.  Most of the time, what they want most is time together with their mom and dad.

I was reminded of this when I read the following article: The Top 10 Things Children Really Want Their Parents To Do With Them by Erin Kurt

What do you think matters most to your children? You driving them to lessons and practices, or is it the smile and hug you greet them with after school? If you guessed the latter, you are correct. Sixteen years of teaching and giving the same assignment every Mother’s Day has led me to the exact same conclusion.

You see, every Mother’s Day I would ask my students to give me advice on being a mother. They were to think about things their mother or guardian did for or with them that made them feel happy or loved. The classroom would go silent as the students wrote intensely for longer than they had ever written before.

Often smiles would appear on their faces as they reflected on the happy experiences they were remembering. After reading their responses I would add to my list all the ideas they mentioned. Surprisingly, many of the responses were the same. Year after year, in every country I taught, and in every type of demographic, the students were saying the same things and had the same message: It’s the small things that their mothers did that meant the most and that they remembered.

Many moms today feel as if they are not good mothers unless they are racing around, shuttling their children from lessons, to practices and back to lessons again. I’ve had mothers tell me that they want to give their children every opportunity they did not have. While this thinking might bring the mother some comfort, it really does not do the same for their child who is potentially feeling overextended, stressed and tired. 

After speaking endlessly about this topic with my students, it became clear to me that children today are involved in too many activities and are in turn becoming less in touch with themselves and their families. 
In addition, my students told me they really wished for more time to “just play”. Of course many of them enjoy their extra curricular activities, but it is not necessary they said to be allowed to do everything. What they enjoyed most, and what made their hearts happiest was when their mothers did simple things for or with them.

Here is a list of the top ten things students around the world said they remembered and loved most about their mothers.
  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
  5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
  6. At night talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.
  7. Let me play outside a lot.
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.
  10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.
Children are incredibly wise and tend to see the world more simply than we do. Perhaps it is time we start taking their advice. Maybe we would all feel a little less stressed and be satisfied with the fact that doing little things really is… good enough.

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