I recently wrote about engaging my kids throughout the day as a parenting goal for 2015. In that post, I alluded to some mysterious practical ways I engage my kids.
Obviously, I do these perfectly every day.
HA! Not. They’re goals. Things that I feel like the Lord consistently puts on my heart as simple ways to really be with my kids and plant the seeds that are building our relationship for the long haul. So much of my time is filled with caring for their basic physical needs and honestly, it’s tiring. Often the last thing I want to do is build a tower of blocks or read “Green eggs and ham.” Again.
But I need to be reminded they have spiritual and emotional needs to meet too.
Right now, part of those needs, I think, are filled by Mom not only attending to their physical needs, but enjoying them in these other ways too. It’s hard. I love my kids but I’m not the play-with-them-all-day type. This stuff is not natural for me. I definitely air on the side of wanting them to entertain and attend to themselves. (Just being honest here.)
So here it is – ways I (try to) engage, converse, and connect with my kids on a day-to-day basis in no particular order.
#1 – Really listen to them
This means, my eyes on you, often I get down on her level, process what she’s saying, respond or ask questions. This also means phone down when they’re talking to me. Sometimes I say, “Addie, I am sending someone a message. Will you wait a minute while I send this and then I want to hear what you have to say.”
#2 – Wake up with snuggles
Emma is at a particularly non-snuggly right now. Addie loves to snuggle. We usually sit on the couch while she drinks juice and I drink coffee for a few minutes in the mornings. I ask her about dreams. If I don’t, she reminds me to ask her. Since Emma is NOT interested in morning snuggles, I usually try to interact with her and talk to her while I’m changing her diaper first thing in the morning.
#3 – Read together
I don’t remember when we started reading to Addie, but she loves to read. I’m pretty sure she would sit next to me all day on the couch if I would read to her all day. It feels hard to make myself do this, but we’ve started having extra reading time during Emma’s morning nap. Usually she wants to read all the library books along with a couple old favorites, so we started keeping those in a separate basket. We put the basket next to her on the couch, cozy up under a quilt and read several. Some days we don’t have time for as many, so I tell her in advance how many we’ll read. I hope she always loves to read this much. Also, I have to admit – I’m loving that she’ll sit through more riveting books than the peekaboo lego book pictured below. I can’t wait until we can read chapter books together. #nerdpower
Side note – clearly this is my husband reading to her, not me. Blog shoutout to Ben because he leaves early in the morning and works hard all day and then comes home in time to get some quality time in with these girls. He’s here for dinner most of the time, and he comes home “on” – gives the girls tons of energy all the way to bedtime. I am thankful for a job for him that still gives us this time together and I’m so thankful for how happy he is to come home and be with us. We are an energetic (and at times emotionally chaotic) bunch to come home to! I love this man.
#4 – Meals together and without the phone
A lot of times, I’m up and down during meals. I make their meals as they eat kinda. Fruits/ veggies first then other stuff. Everyone needs things cut up and pealed, and I don’t know, it feels easier to just feed them as I prep. But I’ve noticed they both eat better, and we all enjoy the meal more if I prep the meal first and then we all sit down with plates together and eat. (Sometimes I have a little bit of their kid food with them but then enjoy grown up food after they are out of the room or napping.)
#5 – Saying I’m sorry
I gotta be honest, it’s hard for me to admit I’m wrong to my toddler. When no one else is around and she won’t know the difference, it’s hard to make myself do it. But when I snap or have a harsh reaction, it’s wrong. I’ll never forget when I was 14 (ish) and my dad said to me in the kitchen “sorry I reacted like that. You’re not a kid anymore and I need to stop talking to you like a little kid. I’ll talk differently in the future, and it’ll be a bit of a learning curve, but we’ll figure it out…” It made such an impression on me. I want my kids to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Definitely not Mom. Mom needs Jesus too. And sometimes Mom has to say “I’m sorry.”
#6 – Pray together at routine and times and non-routine times
We pray before bed and dinner routinely. Those are natural moments to stop, to remember, to thank God, to acknowledge him with us. But, this year, I am trying to pray more with and in front of the girls throughout the day. For people or situations that come to mind. As we’re thankful for things. Whatever. It’s more natural for me to have those brief, conversational prayers in my head, but I want them to know and see that God always loves them and is always with them, even in the mundane normal day-to-day life.
#7 – Some uninterrupted playtime
Addie is so so so so so social. She seems to crave interaction. I get that. I’m less like that than I used to be, but I do love good friendship. And until Emma is old enough to play with Addie for longer periods of time, or until she’s in some sort of pre-school program, I try to really play something with her, even just for 10 or 15 minutes a lot of days. Some days it doesn’t happen and it’s fine, but I’ve realized if I give her some undivided attention for a while, she’s more likely to go off to play by herself or play near me on her own while I get something done later. Usually we new work-shelf work or puzzles or a special activity like paint, outside play, play-dough, etc… And then after a while I say, “I need to do some other work now. You can keep doing this or you can find something else to do while I do [blank].”
Those are the main things that come to mind for now. Am I overthinking this? I find that if I have “intentional” (to use an overused Christianese word) goals as it relates to interacting with my kids, I’m less likely to fall into thinking they’re in my way and more likely to see them like Jesus sees them. What do you do to connect with your little ones? Parents of 2 or more kids, or older kids, how do you connect with your kids differently as they get older?