“Listen to this,” I said to my husband as I read the latest issue of Parents magazine. “This article says that there are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college. And if your child is five years old, 260 Saturdays are gone,” I told him. Only 940 Saturdays? That’s nothing when you think about it. And it made me wonder: Am I really making the most of our short time together?
The article in the March 2012 issue was an excerpt from a new book, “No Regrets Parenting,” which carries the enticing subtitle “Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids.” The book highlighted a trend I’m seeing in lots of parenting magazines, books and blogs about how we need to unplug and slow down and really engage with our children.
I’m fortunate that my freelance job allows me to be home all day with my kids. But how often do I sit down and play with the dollhouse? I might be there physically, but am I there in spirit as well?
Recently, several of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article by a mom who was tired of everyone telling her to enjoy every moment of her young children’s lives. Her point was that you don’t have to enjoy every moment of the world’s most challenging job–and I agree completely. But I loved that the Parents article talked about optimizing the time you do have. “Not every day with your kids will be perfect,” writes the book’s author Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a pediatrician of almost 30 years, “but hopefully one day you will greet their departure with a profound sense of satisfaction because you’ve given them what they need to succeed and also given yourself what you need to feel like a successful parent.”
How do we do that? How do we parent successfully when sometimes all we want is for everyone to stop talking for just five minutes?The article gave some great tips that we’re going to implement in our house:
Take pajama walks: After everyone is completely ready for bed–bathed, teeth brushed and pajamas on–take a walk around the neighborhood (weather permitting) in the stroller or on their tricycle. There doesn’t have to be lots of conversation; just quietly enjoy the final moments of the day together. Dr. Rotbart promises that when you return home your kids will be “in a fresh-air trance and ready for bed.”
Have a taco night: Dinner at home is important, but creating traditions makes it even more special for kids. Maybe you have Taco Tuesdays or Pancake Wednesdays or whatever. Having a set menu one night a week helps you get dinner on the table faster because everyone knows his or her job–leaving time for conversations about what happened at school that day.
Don’t drive everywhere: It’s much faster to hop in the car, but if you live in a place where you can walk sometimes, take advantage of that. It offers a way to slow down and engage with your children. If you’d normally drop them off at an activity and run errands during the tennis lesson, play date or karate class, take along some work or reading and find a quiet place to relax yourself. Hold hands on the walk home and savor a simple afternoon.
As much as I enjoyed the article, I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I know that by tomorrow evening, I’ll feel stressed about my messy house, my whining toddler and the two emails that needed responses hours ago. But when that feeling creeps in, I’m going to remember this advice from the article:
“Imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time when your children have grown and left home. Picture their tousled bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car vacuumed and without a carseat or crumbs. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then rewind the imaginary clock back to now, and see today’s minutes of mayhem for what they are: finite and fleeting.”