Let’s face it, caring for kids is mind-numbing about 99.9% of the time. There are only so many times you can play peek-a-boo or eye spy before you want to jump head-first out of a two-story window. And don’t get me started on the whining and nagging and sibling fighting and messes and temper tantrums and food battles. I could go on and on, but moral of the story is – when you do this day in and day out, it’s not surprising that you fall into a rut.
And when you’re stuck in a rut, it’s difficult to get creative and be spontaneous and fun. You just shut down mentally, live in haze of boredom and monotony and survive each day the best you can until you tuck your little ones in bed at night and finally get to relax – preferably with a glass of wine and a Netflix binge.
But listen up folks, it doesn’t have to be like this. You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s true…
One day you’re going to wonder where the time went. You’re going to wish so badly you could go back to those days when they were small and really soak it all up.
Let’s not live in regret. Let’s be more present.
Put down your phone.
We’re living in a time when people are more connected than ever, but at the same time, more disconnected. If you’re like me, your phone is constantly buzzing with notifications and it’s very difficult to resist the urge to check it on queue. Like Pavlov’s dog – we hear the bell and we salivate.
But what are we teaching our kids about priorities? And more importantly, are we even present and engaged when we’re spending time with them?
You know the drill; you’re on your fifth game of Candyland, or your 20th repeated verse of the ‘clean up’ song and just when you’re ready to start banging your head against the wall, you hear the sweet chime of a world beyond your mind-numbing, toy-cluttered existence calling you and you can’t help but to cling to that little sliver of adult social interaction through a quick text, or you jump on Facebook and take a peek at all the things more interesting people are doing in more interesting places.
I get it. I really do. And I struggle with the same thing, but we have to stop.
You know it’s bad when your kid sees your phone as an extension of yourself.
In the past, on quite a few occasions, my sons had noticed when I didn’t have my phone near me and had asked where it was or offered to get it for me. It made me feel awful each time and I became more aware of just how frequently I am disconnected from my kids because I have some ‘anywhere but here’ complex; and my phone was enabling this to happen.
But I like taking pictures of my kids and sharing them with friends and family.
No. Stop documenting everything!
Yes, pictures are important for preserving memories, but people have become obsessed with documenting their daily lives. It is exhausting and time-consuming and meaningless to constantly update every single activity that is happening in your life. Stop taking pictures of your food and just eat it. Stop taking pictures of your kids at the playground and just kick back, relax, breathe the fresh air and watch them play or read a book. Stop checking in. Stop photographing poop. Stop updating your bi-hourly status. Just stop.
And just be. Be in the moment for yourself, not for others’ reactions of the moment.
Get back to basics.
One of my favorite things to do as a kid would be to collect blankets from around the house, steal all the couch cushions, find a flashlight and build an amazing fort. That’s about as simple as it gets, but for a kid, just about as fun as it gets.
It’s time to connect with your inner child. You have to find that imagination you had as a kid, rip it out from the depths of your mind, and get back to basics with your kid. CONNECT with them, be ENGAGED, be PRESENT.
Start off small.
For me, the first step was to turn off the social media push notifications on my phone. I also would put my phone in another room and tell myself I’m going to spend 30 uninterrupted minutes of quality time with my sons where I’m not zoned out thinking about anything else and I’m not trying to multitask and do laundry or clean while playing with them. And it doesn’t have to be any major activity or planned event you do with them. In fact, the simpler the better. Have an impromptu dance party, be silly, play tag or hide-and-seek, play the ‘hot lava’ game with couch cushions on the floor, play Simon Says, build the world’s biggest block tower, just be a kid and teach them games you played as a kid.
In order to connect with your kids, you don’t need to spend three hours on Pinterest looking for the perfect craft to do with them because, let’s face it, they could care less how cute that toilet paper roll owl is and you’ll probably spend more time and effort taking pictures and posting it to Facebook than time actually spent interacting and engaging with them. Build a fort instead.
Ask them questions. Learn how their mind works. What’s your favorite color? If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why? Be truly interested in their responses and ask more questions.
They will feel so special and so happy to have your true undivided attention. These are the things you’ll miss one day. And these are things they will remember forever.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever use your phone. I’m not saying you should throw social media totally out the window. I’m not saying your kids need your undivided attention every second of the day. I’m saying there is a balance, and in balance you will find happiness. The Earth will not shatter and crumble if you leave your phone in the car next time you’re at the playground.
Just be present.