I am a very fast paced person. I love to be busy. I relish in the feeling of completing a task. I hate to be interrupted. When my first baby was born, I remember my greatest concern was that he would slow me down. It took me twice as long just to load the car with an infant. Now, with three kids, we often sit in the driveway for 10 minutes working to get everyone buckled! Even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming when it includes shuffling children in and out of the car more than once. I often find myself thinking, “I could have done this so much faster on my own!”
As my children have grown, I have gotten into the habit of saying things like, “Not right now,” or “In a bit,” or “Mommy is too busy,” or just plain “No” when my children ask for some of my precious time. They need me to play with them, build Legos, read a story, watch a movie or play in the sand. I’m also guilty of always hurrying my children. I can be heard saying things like, “Hurry quickly and get dressed,” or “We’re running out of time,” or “Come now!”
I had a realization a while back. I am not really mothering. I am so focused on my “lists” and moving onto the next thing that I am missing many of the moments that really matter. I have been so involved in the good things that I am failing to take time for the best things. These moments, right now, are the critical moments in my life! So what did I do about my realization?
First, I let go of some things in my life (or at least greatly scaled them back). I’ll have time later in my life to do some things that I am putting on hold now. I don’t have to give them up fully, but life has times and seasons, and this season is a little more kid-focused.
Second, I started to treat my mothering like a career it is. When I worked in other careers, I would attend seminars, read books and train myself so I could be the best I could in that job. Now, motherhood is my job, so it is okay to spend money on seminars and workshops, read books and work to improve my mothering. I focus on what I can do with my children that will be meaningful and fun. I am more intentional as I plan each day of my “work”.
Third, and probably most important, I say “yes” a whole lot more. I have learned to stop what I am doing to read a book with my oldest or smash Play-Doh with my three-year-old, or cuddle my baby. After all, it only takes five minutes. Don’t misunderstand; I still take time for me. I still engage in projects where my kids have to wait for me to step away. But, each time they need me, I evaluate if what I’m doing now can wait another minute while I “mother”.
After returning from the grocery store with all three kids at nearly 4:30 pm the other day (a trip I only make in near emergency situations), my oldest asked me to ride bikes with him. The immediate thoughts in my head were of the dinner that needed to be made and the baby that needed fed. But, I said “yes” and loaded my two youngest into the bike trailer and set out with my oldest in the front. We rode for 20 minutes. We bonded. And, guess what? Dinner still got made and the baby didn’t starve.
Today, I took my middle son to the greenhouse to get some soil pep. This greenhouse has a bridge over a pond on one side. As we were leaving, he said that he wanted to walk over the bridge. Even just a year ago, I would have said “No,” that we needed to hurry home. Instead, I loaded our purchases into the car and then walked back over with him to stand on the bridge. He was so thrilled to be standing on the bridge, looking at the fish and the water. It only took a minute or two, but it made his day. Once we got off the bridge, he looked at me with his huge, blue eyes and said to me, “Mom, I wanted to go on the bridge this many times,” holding up three fingers. I told him to run over it two more times and then we’d go, which he happily did with a very satisfied grin in his face. He had no complaints as we got in the car and headed home. A five minute detour had proved to be worth it. This is especially true considering the tantrum it prevented and the joy it brought to one little boy’s life.
Now that I have slowed down a little, I notice and enjoy the little moments more. I find more humor and joy in the silly things my kids do. We laugh together more. Amazingly, they are also more obedient and happy because they are getting the attention they need. And, I feel more balance in my mothering and in my overall life.
QUESTION: What can you eliminate (or scale back) from your life in order to be able to say “yes” to your kids more?
CHALLENGE: Just once this week, when you would have usually said “No”, say “Yes” instead and take note of what happens.