Sometimes as a mother of three little ones, I look at the day and wonder what we did.
Spills – check.
Meltdowns – definitely.
Band-aids – good thing we always stock up at the dollar store.
It’s so easy for me to think of all the things that were chaotic, exhausting, and stressful.
But if I’m being completely honest, there are always just as many beautiful moments. They just get buried under the laundry, the errands, and the sleepless nights. They are so simple that I often forget they are actually are perfect. Until I spot them in a photo. Or wish I had that photo.
I want to grab hold of these days that everyone tells me go so quickly. I can't just let them slip through my fingers. The simple moments are some of the most meaningful ways to connect with children.
I see that all too familiar look when I glance over at grandparents gazing at my own children. It's a longing. They don’t have to say what they are thinking. I already know – I’ve heard it at least 100 times before.
They wish they would have cherished the little moments more. My husband’s grandmother, who is almost 90 years-old, writes me letters occasionally. Each and every one of them say that she would love to have those years back and make more of them.
Thanks to grandma and every stranger I have turned into a friend while talking about their children or mine, I have decided that I will focus on those easy to miss moments. Because they are actually big moments… important moments.
Although still exhausting.
Five of the most meaningful ways to connect with children
1. Read Together
“Mommy, will you read this to me?”
I glance over my laptop to see a smiling face under wavy red hair. I think of all the things I was trying to accomplish.
But then I remember. He needs this. We need this.
I put the computer aside and stifle thoughts of e-mails and bills to the back of my brain.
I can always come back to the tedious tasks. They will be here waiting until we have finished The Gruffalo.
2. Laugh Together
I hear a little voice.
“Who’s there?” I respond.
We burst out in laughter.
It’s OK that I’ve heard that joke every day for the past month. Each day they find it just as funny. Even our precious one-year-old giggles.
3. Get Close to One Another
Many mornings we have a routine.
“Mommy, why are you out of bed already? You didn’t snuggle me today yet.”
“I was getting your sister breakfast. Would you like some?”
“No…when you don’t lay with me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”
Caught off-guard, I start digging around in my mind for the right words to say. There are none. Words won’t justify the trillion reasons I love him.
“Go lie down. I’ll be there in two minutes to snuggle you.”
4. Play Together
Some of the hardest days I just want to rush them to bed, to decompress from all of the rough moments, and to bask in adult conversation, a great book, or silence. Then I hear a sweet voice.
“Mom, you be the bear, and I’ll be the mouse.”
I reluctantly join. By the end of the day, I just don’t have the energy to say “no” and hold to it.
“OK, but I thought the bear was your favorite.”
“It is, but I want you to have it.”
These moments before they fall asleep are like discovering treasure. I have learned it is the time when they generously share their secrets and innermost thoughts. The mouse holds back nothing when talking with the bear.
5. Make a Mess together
“Mom, can we make pancakes? I’ll crack the eggs and try not to spill them all over this time.”
I look at the clock. It’s an hour before we need to leave...we’ll need every minute.
“Oh, and can I stir and pour the milk too?”
I watch as the joy spreads from her face, through her arm, and into the whisk and the bowl. Flour spills over the side as she smiles and nods at me.
I tell her the truth. “These are the best pancakes ever!”
These are the moments, the small parts of our day that make a big impact. These are the simple times of our life that I remind myself are the most meaningful ways to connect with a child. They are the moments I know I will miss when I am sleeping through the night and have no messes to clean.