If there’s one major struggle I have with in this hectic go-go-go! life, it’s what I’m missing with my boys when I’m moving so fast.
We wake and rush to work and school. We get home and the house needs cleaned. Dinner needs made. Baths need given. Children need tucked. Lunches need packed.
Then, as quickly as it began, it’s over.
Another day in the books. Another set of moments to hug, snuggle, read, laugh–gone.
Our house is clean and so are our kids (mostly), but if all those things are on our “must do” list, how do we steal moments back?
How do we hack this long adult life thing so we can enjoy this very short parenthood thing?
We must be intentional.
Don’t get me wrong; sweet moments fall into my lap every day-literally, but creating a childhood worth remembering? Shaping their little lives into something they can carry into adulthood feeling confident, loved, and able? That takes intention and persistence.
When we’re completely burnt out, being intentional is so hard. Persisting toward this goal is even harder, so I decided whatever ways I went about this had to be doable. Like, momming pre-Pinterest doable.
Here are the top ten ideas I’ve come across (so far) for how to take back those little moments:
We hear this so much you might be tempted to scroll past, but hear me out.
We all know it’s important, but I listen to a lot of people say since they can’t do it every night (enter athletics, clubs, and well…life) they just can’t. I’d like to argue that maybe we don’t have to hold fast to the traditional family dinner around a table rule. Maybe family dinner can meet us where we are. I know some pretty awesome parents who’ve held dinners at practice, Dad’s office, or even in the back of the family car. We don’t need a table. We need each other.
2.)Highs and Lows
As the day is winding down, asking, “What were your highs for the day? What were your lows?” can be such a great way to proactively parent instead of feeling like we’re always reacting to situations. It’s how, even in kindergarten, we have learned some things we’d like to discuss with our son now that he spends part of his day away from the nest. I also really love hearing how the boys viewed their day, and after all our efforts (and struggles) what sticks out to our kids surprises me most nights.
3.) Situational Car Rides
The mother of one of my best friends shared this with me one day, and I will never forget it. While her three children were growing up, she would use car rides as an opportunity to talk/role play through different situations they might encounter in each stage of life. In this way, she could listen to how her kids might handle a situation, give them ideas for how they could handle it, and have good, solid discussions about why she and her husband would hope the kids would make decisions that aligned with their family values.
4.) Break the Rules!
One of my closest friends shared with me how one day, minivan crammed full of sweet babies headed to church, she pulled over in a donut shop, grabbed some treats, parked, and reconnected with her kids. Of course we want to get to church, but on this day, for whatever reason, this momma had to call an audible. Break the rules. Make a mess. Have big belly laughs and just be with her kids. It was exactly what her crew needed. Feel free to break the rules. Just this once.
5.) Throw Signals
Like two baseball players silently communicate plays, pitches, and when to steal bases from across the field, your team can benefit from their own signals, too. Something small. Something even the littlest of the group can use. A quick check in, a heart touch, a reminder that even if we’re in a crowd of a million, I am with you. We are together. It just feels good to be a part of a team- especially one in which we’re grounded and loved.
6.) Family Fun Day/Night
I’ve seen families do this differently. Some have a list they make together. Others wing it and just go with whatever they dream up in the moment. I’ve seen some families do it weekly, some monthly. However and whenever you do it, go for it! Take a break from all the running here and there and just give in to some good ‘ole fashioned fun! Some popular ideas include: movie night, pool night at the rec., climbing at the rec., hiking, museums, a road trip to somewhere they Googled, game night, camping out back, movie in a homemade fort, picnic anywhere from the back yard to the park, splash park and donuts (our splash park and donuts are on the same street!), service projects around the community, random acts of kindness, and family exploring (jump in the car and just GO!).
7.) Add Music
Music is good for the soul. All kinds. All the time. While we make dinner. While we clean. Just because. Does your family have favorite songs? We have been having fun lately with our Echo Dot calling out, “Alexa, play Uptown Funk!” That little Hudson is in love with this song, when he quotes it in public we get all the weird stares, and it’s just become our silly family thing. I’ve fully embraced it. Like a fresh jar of Skippy.
8.) After Dinner Cards
Write the most common clean up activities on cards, pieces of paper, the backs of old bill envelopes, whatever you’ve got, and lay them face down, fanned out. Everyone picks a card for what they get to do that night after dinner. The family spends that time in the kitchen together working as a team to clean up. Conversations happen. Family ties strengthen. Who knew turning it into a game would make it a little easier?
9.) Grocery Helpers–
Ya’ll…that grocery struggle is real…but if you’re ready to take a risk, it can be fun. Or… fun in a no-one-threw-themselves-on-the-floor-in-Target-today kinda way.
Right now my three-year-old is a little shifty, so I don’t always let him out of the cart as I’m fairly certain he’ll try to join another family while I’m picking up produce. So, instead, he’s my list holder, and he marks off the items as we get them.
My five-year-old is just learning to read, so he’ll say the list items from Hudson’s paper, help me find the items on the shelves, and put them into the cart.
Yes, this takes a little longer. Yes, sometimes I just throw-and-go and we pretend it’s a race we need to win zooming down isles, but most times we try to choose a day and time when we can go together and make it a little extra special.
Since I just can’t get on board with the “If you’re good I’ll give you ___(insert candy or toy here)___” thing, I use this to survive. It’s worked so far.
You know, unless our little curveball tries to leap out of the cart pretending he’s Iron Man. Other than those days, I’ve totally got this. 🙂
10.) Pray Together
The day is done. Kids are scrubbed (or hosed off if it’s summer). Jammies are on. Stories are read. You’ve given seven drinks, fake-peed three times, had four different hugging sessions, and they’re finally snugged up under the covers all cute and big-eyed.
Grab those little hands, Mommas and Daddies. Close your eyes, and pray out loud with your babies. No matter what age. No matter what season. Pray in the dark and quiet. Pray straight from your heart.
There aren’t any rules, of course, but I read an idea from The Most Important Place on Earth recently that has me changing up my routine a bit.
Wolgemuth writes about opening prayer thanking God for your child. Tell God how special they are to you and pray over specific issues. Then praise God for answered prayers or successes, and pray over your children for the next day or week.
This is a great way to model prayer, let them know how vital speaking to the Lord is each day, and also solidifying that when they talked through the day, you listened. When they struggled, you understood. When they succeeded, you gave God the glory and you were watching, sharing in their triumph. I cannot tell you how many stories I didn’t hear through the day that pop up because we have prayed together.
These ten have proven useful for our family and families we know personally to exhale every once and a while from this modern day race we run.
It’s not about how much more we can pack into these precious days, but the time we spend together.
For all they have given me since they were knit in my womb, I give them pause.
In the middle of the chaos I gift them a sigh, breathing out my to-do list for just a moment and breathing in their words, giggles, childhood, and in turn, my parenthood.