We all know childhood is beautiful and fleeting, but sometimes in the midst of the mayhem that our precious children create, it can be hard to really love the current age and stage of our children.
At our Power of Families Retreats, one of the favorite topics is finding more joy in motherhood. As mothers discuss what brings them joy and how they can feel the joy more often, one of the main ideas that always comes up is that we enjoy motherhood the most when we’re really living in the moment and doing and cherishing the things that are special to this particular phase of childhood and motherhood. Moms agree that when are in a hurry to get somewhere, be it preschool or the next stage of childhood, it’s hard to feel the joy.
Here are five top tips on how we can appreciate the current ages and stages of our children:
1 – Take time to assess what stage of motherhood you’re in. Think about what motherhood and personal pursuits will work now and which will work better later on.
When I had five preschoolers (thanks to a surprise set of twins), I tried loading up kids and talking them to the library, park or grocery store but quickly realized it just wasn’t the right time in my life to be doing those things with two babies, a toddler and two preschoolers. I realized that most excursions just weren’t worth the stress at that time. I learned to do my errands after the kids were in bed. We put in a great play structure in the backyard and invested in good toys and invited friends over with their children rather than heading out to the park or a playgroup. We had our own story time at home every day rather than going to the library.
I learned to say a whole lot of “no’s” so that I could say “yes” to what was most important at that stage of life.
Now that my children are all in school, it’s a great time for me to be devoting time to writing, podcasting and putting on Retreats for Power of Moms. It’s also a great time to take my kids on lots of fun excursions since they’re at great stages for museums and parks and road trips.
I’ve learned that I can have it all – but not all at the same time. And I’ve learned that some of the best things in life can’t be planned but simply need to be enjoyed when they come along.
2 – DO the things you can only do NOW with your children.
I’m so glad that I took the time to read with my kids a lot when they were little. I have beautiful memories of them snuggled on my lap as we read together. That time was precious and it could only happen just that way during the time that they were certain ages.
I’m so glad that I’ve taken the time to volunteer in my children’s classrooms and see their faces light up when I walk into the room. I love that I’ve gotten to know their friends and teachers. Now my kids are older and their teachers aren’t as welcoming of parent help in the classroom. I’m glad I recognized that elementary school was the time to really be in my kids’ classrooms.
I love that all my kids still look forward to family movie night every Friday night and I’m cherishing this time that they really want to be home and together.
I love showing my kids new places and learning together with them through hands-on experiences. I’ve got a long list of places I’ve lived in and loved that I want to share with my kids and a long list of places I’ve wanted to visit that I’d like to experience with my kids. But we’ve had to limit our family travel due to finances and job situations and family situations and a lot of my travel dreams have had to sit on the shelf.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t travel! We may be limited to traveling to places we can get to in our trusty old mini-van but there are sure a lot of wonderful places we can get to through road trips!
We’ve decided that this is going to be the summer that we drive all the way across the country to visit family and favorite places on the East Coast (I grew up in Boston and DC for much of my life). We’ve saved up. The kids are all pretty darn good in the car these days. And we need to do this before they get to the stage where they’ve got sports camps and jobs and other things that will make it harder for us to take off for a chunk of time in the summer. NOW is the time for us to travel and we’ll make it work within the budget and time that we have.
3 – Remember it’s just a stage. Keep the big picture in mind.
I remember feeling like the crazy messes that my little 2-year-old twins were making were NEVER going to end. They made mess after mess all day long and I felt like all I was doing was following them around, cleaning up messes. One day they dumped out a 25-pound bag of dried pinto beans and when I put them in their room to keep them out of the way while I cleaned that up, they found a jar of vaseline and smeared it all over the brand new carpet and cute Pottery Barn bedding I’d saved up for for their cribs. I was finding pinto beans in random places for months and the grease marks on the carpet and bedding never quite came out, but we all laugh now about the crazy antics of those cute little boys. Now my twins are 8 years old and while they still make messes, they’re pretty good at cleaning up their own messes these days.
One of my sons had the hardest time learning to read and during frustrating reading sessions with him, I sometimes wondered if he was EVER going to be a decent reader. I worried so much during that stage. But we worked together and plowed on through and sure enough, this son did learn to read eventually and last week, he and I were both so excited when he received an award at school for getting 100% on his big term book report.
My oldest child was once a super-enthusiastic and fun little guy. Lately, he’s a surly teenager who has a hard time seeing anything good about anything and who can be pretty mean to his younger siblings (plus it’s sure hard to get a decent picture of him – see the best we could get out of many many shots below . . .). Sometimes my husband and I get so worried about him! But we’re watching and learning and praying and helping him see what he needs to see as he helps us see what we need to see. I’ve been assured by many wise moms of older kids that what this boy of ours is going through is entirely normal. It’s just a stage. We’ll work hard and we’ll get through it.
Kids grow out of lots of things. We grow out of worrying about lots of things. Stages pass and new stages arrive. We can really help ourselves enjoy the present if we can embrace the mantra, “It’s probably just a stage” and/or “This too shall pass.”
4 – Be there. Stop and enjoy.
When we take the time to really listen to our children, to really answer, to really look into their eyes and see the people they’re becoming, the “now” becomes so beautiful. One of my favorite quotes is this one by Iris Krasnow (in her book Surrendering to Motherhood):
Being There [is] an emotional and spiritual shift…It’s about crouching on the floor and getting delirious over the praying mantis your son just caught instead of perusing an email or filling the dishwasher while he is yelling for your attention and you distractedly say over your shoulder: ‘Oh, honey, isn’t that a pretty bug.’ It’s about being attuned enough to notice when your kid’s eyes shine so you can make your eyes shine back.
Kids don’t usually want HOURS of our time. They usually just want MOMENTS. And when we give them the moments it takes to really care about what they really care about, our relationships flourish and our enjoyment of motherhood really grows.
5 – Record the good, the bad and the ugly.
When we record (in photos, in our journals, or on our blogs) the hard times as well as the good times, we can gain perspective plus capture memories that will provide great stories and laughs now and down the road. I find that when I take the time to photograph the crazy moment I’m in, I’m less likely to be upset and more likely to see the humor in it. I also find that when I take a few minutes at the end of a hard day to record the events of the day along with my thoughts and feelings, it’s great therapy (as well as great material to share with my kids when they’re parents one day . . .).
Here are a couple posts from my personal blog where I recorded some hard times with my kids – and was led to find good solutions and humor as I wrote:
Sometimes They Drive me Crazy . . .
Don’t Get Cocky
And here are a few photos submitted by our community that capture some simple moments of different stages of motherhood:
I find that when I do my best to apply these five tips in my life, I get a lot more joy of of motherhood – and my family is a lot happier. Good luck in your attempts to enjoy the precious present with your own children!