Remember all of those moments when your children were infants that were magical in the most simple, easy ways? This picture of my now nearly seven year old daughter is one of my favorites. It used to be that all it took to make her happy was a ride in what my husband called “the daddy chair.” That’s it. In this picture I’m pretty sure my husband is actually watching football, doing nothing more than holding Emma, but my daughter is clearly having the time of her life, just sitting in the daddy chair.
Now it takes surprise trips to Disney, elaborate birthday parties, and gifts for no reason to make my kids happy. Or does it?
I think that as parents we can easily get wrapped up in the day to day tasks of living and believe that it takes nothing short of smoke and mirrors to create magical moments in our children’s lives. But the truth is, children continue to take pleasure in the most simple of things, just like that smiling baby in the arms of her father. The challenge that we face is to slow down, step back, and find those moments. This is personally difficult for me because my life has become one long balancing act since I began working from home. But even with the chaos that that lifestyle brings, there are still moments of parenting magic when I…
1. Listen to what my kids really want: Among the requests for the latest toy and DVD, you may find that what your kids really want can’t be bought in a store. This time of year it is especially difficult to locate those requests mixed in with holiday wish lists, but if you listen closely, they’ll show themselves. My daughter has been talking about a friend at school nearly every night at dinner, so I asked her if she’d like that friend to come home on the bus with her one day this week. She literally jumped into my arms with happiness and said, “I’ve been wanting her to come over and play!” Now it is all that she talks about in anticipation of the play date, and gone are the constant requests to update her Santa list. I have a feeling that Santa’s not off the hook, but I know that what my daughter enjoys most is time with friends, and I’m happy to find a way to make that happen for her.
2. Turn down the noise: My son is digitally obsessed: television, computers, electronic learning toys. If it has a button, he wants to push it. If it has a screen, he wants to touch it – that’s right – he thinks everything is a touch screen now. But the real problem is me. Between social media, emails for work, phone calls, and the conversations I need to have with my husband daily to keep this household running, there is so much over-stimulation that at times it can be deafening. My best moments with my children come when the computer is off, the phone is ignored, and the priorities that drive us 99% percent of the time are shelved so that we have time to lie on the floor with a board game or a deck of cards, just spending time together. And when we create those times? No one asks to watch a show or play a computer game. It turns out that this is where the kids most want to be, too.
3. All pile in: When is the last time that your family all sat together on one couch to watch a movie, all piled into one bed together to read a book? Even when we’re all in the same room I often feel like my kids are miles apart from me, from each other. One is playing Barbies, the other tapping away on Leapster, and I’m working on invoices, answering emails. There is simply nothing like a tangled pile of arms and legs, a pile of soft pillows, and your favorite Beverly Cleary to put things in perspective.
4. Watch: Remember the first time your children walked on their own? I’d bet that you weren’t there coaching them along, encouraging them to walk from Mommy to Daddy. It’s likely that instead your little guy pulled up on a chair and suddenly took a couple steps away from it, unaware that anyone was watching. Kids continue to take those “first steps” throughout their childhood in those moments when they think no one is watching, and if you’re lucky enough to see it, you will be blessed with a magical parenting moment. Just last week my daughter was working on her first letter to a pen-pal when my four year old son asked for a piece of paper and a marker. I hoped that he would doodle and distract himself for long enough that my daughter could write her letter, but instead I realized that he was answering the questions, writing his own letter. My eyes filled with tears as I quietly watched him work hard to write, “Im in pre-k, May 9, blue”. They weren’t sentences, and his 9 looked like my cat had written it, but the connections he was making were happening before my mind, little fireworks of learning. And I had that moment because I took the time to quietly watch.
5. Get away: I know I joked about a surprise trip to Disney being what it takes to impress my kids lately, but the truth is that sometimes it take a grand gesture to pull me away from the to-do lists in my life and make me focus on what is truly important and glorious about being a parent, blessed with these two amazing creatures. The kids don’t really care if it’s a trip to Walt Disney World or a camp out in the basement. There will be no laundry, no trips to the grocery store, no email, no phone calls, no ballet, no soccer, no homework. For two nights and three days there will only be four people who love each other intensely spending much needed time together.
What do you do when your life becomes so busy that you can’t find those magical parenting moments?