Monday, March 26, 2012

Being present for your kids

Last week, I talked about taking time outs for yourself in order to be a better Mom…a more “hands on mom.” I have found when you are not as overwhelmed with all your everyday motherly duties or just done from a day of the fussies and the sassies, you tend to be (and want to be) more present with your kids.

You walk into any indoor play area or visit any park around town and it never fails, almost every parent has their computer, I Pads or phone out, talking on it, texting or looking at the Internet.  I know as stay-at-home Moms our phones or I Pads, is our way to the outside world. We are able to keep in touch with family that is far away or it is a way to chit chat with friends.  

Isn’t it so sad to see how we have let all this technology and gadgets just take over our lives where we are not present anymore? We may be physically, but are we really tuned in to what is going on around us or what are children are doing? The answer is “no” and we have ALL been guilty of this in some form or another. We are either constantly returning emails, posting on Facebook (and only the good things, right?), Tweeting (whatever that is, still don’t get it) or texting.  We think we are multitasking but are we really. To me, it is just more to do and precious time with your kids to waste.  
Just last week, my girls and I visited an indoor play area, as a way to pass the time between nap and dinnertime. You know, “the witching hour” as some call it.  I really could not get over how many parents were just sitting around on their behinds with their phone glued to their hand and some to their hip. There was one particular Mom that stuck out because her adorable little boys were playing with my girls, and every now and then, they would go check in with their mom, either showing her a picture they drew or a funny outfit they had dressed up in. Not one time did she really acknowledge them. She might have nodded her head or shouted across the room, to get on to them for blocking the slide or going up the slide instead of down, but other than that, I never saw any interaction with her boys. Yes, I know that you should not have to entertain your kids all day long and that they need to learn how to play independently. I get that! However, if your child is seeking you out to include you in their play, acknowledge them and enjoy that very moment with them. It might be a moment to bond or to teach them something. Be present, Mamas!

The same goes while you are at home or in the car with your children. It is so easy to grab your cell phone, catch up with phone calls (there’s that multitasking), make appointments or even worse, put a DVD in for your child when you are driving the short distance from your house to the grocery store. Then, while at home, you are trying to think of how am I going to keep these kids entertained all day, we can’t go to the zoo again, I have no desire to go to an indoor play area or park. Or it may be at the end of your work day, and you are too exhausted to do anything. Haven’t we all been there?
Parents, I don’t want you to think I am telling you what to do or how to parent. I am just trying to encourage you to savor each moment with your child as I have recently taken a step back myself and realized some of the lost moments I have taken for granted. Whether it has been trying to clean, do laundry, return a phone call or email, all the while the girls are playing. I have missed some sweet conversations or opportunities to just bond with my kids all because I was trying to do it all and make a check mark on my to-do list.

I know if you are like me, you think that if I get this task done and checked off my list, then I can sit down and play a game with my kids or take them to the park on a pretty spring day. Well, I was wrong. What I have learned that every moment you spend with your child does not have to be some elaborate activity or fieldtrip to the Discovery Center or the Zoo. Just those small moments of coloring a picture with them, taking a walk, doing a puzzle, having a tea party, building a fort, or reading to them, count so much! Those are the moments they remember the most!

I just read an article in Parents magazine that talked about how precious our time is with our children and in this article they gave some really interesting statistics on how much time we actually do have left with our children. Listen to this…
“There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college, which kind of sounds like a lot, but how many have you already used up? If your child is 5 years old, 260 Saturdays are gone. Poof!”  Okay, how scary is that!  Then, sometimes those Saturdays are eaten up with activities, sleepovers, etc. Crazy!

So parents let’s take advantage of the little moments we have with our kids. While riding in the car, turn off the DVDs and any other noisy gadgets going on, put your cell phone away (gasp!) where you are not tempted and try to have a conversation with your child, play a car game with them or listen to a favorite CD.  
While at home, let the laundry go, don’t be in such a hurry to clean up while your children are playing and forget your to-do lists until you actually have the time to do the tasks. Also, get the phone out of your hand. Your kids want to see your face when they are talking to you. Be a good role model and show them the same respect you would want them to do when talking to you or someone else.
Other small ways you can bond, be present and create memories with your children is having traditions at home like “game nights,” “movie nights” or going out to dinner as a family on a certain night. On the weekends, go for walks, have breakfast for dinner (my girls think that is so silly!) or have a campout in the backyard and make smores.
Remember, the times you spend with your children do not have to cost much or be so over the top creative. It is just being there with them… in the moment!
So parents, we are taking our own advice here…we are going to tuck our computers (or I Pads) away and take the rest of this month and Easter time off so we can spend more time with our family. To be present and savor the moments and we hope you will too.
Happy Spring everyone!  Talk to you again in a few weeks!

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