Life moves pretty fast for this busy mama.
I get up before the sun most days to shower, dress and enjoy a few sips of coffee while it is still hot (a novelty you don’t truly appreciate until you become a parent) and then I hit the ground running to get my little family out the door on time and prepared for the day. For my 9-5 gig, I am filling little brains with knowledge and joy at my teaching job. And then it is back home to get dinner on the table, clean up whatever mess the day has brought and squish in as much family togetherness as possible.
It’s the life of a busy parent. Nothing special or unique. We hustle from commitment to commitment as gracefully as we can and try to squeeze in as much intentional quality time with our little ones as humanly possible.
Which is tricky at times, because it feels like our attention is being pulled in so many directions that often the tiny voices of our kiddos are the easiest to hush. No shame or guilt intended there, just simply saying it like it is. We parents juggle a lot of things, whether we work outside the home or not. I struggled with the balance of home life and work a lot as a new mother (and still do some days), but one thing I have learned along the way is that the quality of your time with your children is far more important than quantity.
I’m sure there will be some people who don’t agree with that statement, but I refuse to believe that because my husband and I are required to work outside of our home that we are anything less than amazing parents who are the biggest influences in our daughter’s life. I see how the world stops when we are together as a family. I see how intentional we are with our conversations with her. I see how our daughter lovingly gazes at us when we share a special moment and feel how tightly she hugs us at the end of the day. And I know that she turns to us above anyone else when the road gets rocky.
I truly believe that our bond is what it is because I take the time every day to do some very important things with her. Some little yet vital activities that foster our tight relationship and allow me to be one of the strongest voices ringing in her ears.
1. Read Together.
It seems like a small thing but the teacher in me knows how important reading is. Not just for promoting early literacy skills (which it totally does) but for also exploring the world together through books. When I read with my daughter, we laugh together, learn together, have real conversations and I get to answer her questions the moment they pop into her brain. In essence, we get to explore the world together without leaving the comfort of our couch. Sometimes we read for an hour. Other times I can only swing the bedtime story routine. But however long it is, we always curl up with a book together on the daily.
2. Have Honest Conversations.
“Why is that man sleeping on the sidewalk?” My daughter asked one day as we left the children’s museum. Explaining real world grown up issues like homelessness on a child’s level is sometimes tough and even painful…but also important. I want her to grow up with compassion, understanding, and know that she can ask me anything and I’ll be as honest as I can with her. We have conversations like this whenever they naturally arise (which is usually daily). I aim to give her honest answers without giving her too much information that will overwhelm her growing mind. “Well, honey. Some people don’t have beds or homes like we do. We are very lucky to have everything we need and should look for ways to help people who don’t” I answered. I didn’t want her to feel frightened by the man’s situation but aware that there are people in need in the world. I could see the wheels turning in her head after I answered. “We should give him the orange we brought for a snack,” Alice finally piped up as we walked to the car. “That way, he has something to eat when he wakes up. That will make him happy and then he will have something that he needs.” I think my heart grew three sizes as I dug that orange out of my purse.
3. Share At Least One Meal Together.
So many wonderful things happen around the dining room table. Conversation. Role modeling manners and healthy eating habits. But most importantly….togetherness. So no matter how fast the world moves or how busy our day is, I make sure to sit down with my daughter for at least one meal around the table. So many ideas, concerns and stories pour out of her as she scoops her soup or nibbles her broccoli. I feel like I learn about what makes my daughter tick and who she is as a person over our shared meals.
We are a family that loves to laugh. We have family dance parties to silly music. Try to come up with the strangest knock-knock jokes and see who can out silly-face the other. And I love and adore that element of our family! Laughter is the most amazing stress reliever and will also stop a temper tantrum in its tracks. Laughter is pure joy and I want my daughter to have as much of that as possible in her daily life and in her childhood memories.
5. Help Her Become A Little More Independent.
One day I bought Alice a step-stool so she could help me cook at the counter. The next thing I knew, that little step stool was being dragged all over the house so she could reach things for herself. The clothes hanging in her closet. Books off the shelf. A glass for water. By giving her that little step stool that day, I unknowingly empowered her to do so many more things for herself. Since that day, I try to find little things I can do to foster her independent spirit. I take an extra minute in the morning to talk her through starting the zipper on her coat. I move the art supplies to a place she can reach (though I wish sometimes she couldn’t reach them). I moved the bowl of fruit down at her level so she can help herself to a healthy snack when she is hungry. Little things that make the world not feel so big and overwhelming to her….and to help grow confidence in knowing that she can do anything she needs for herself.
6. Listen to her.
Alice has amazing things to say. Every kids does. And I want my daughter to know that her voice, her words, and her thoughts deserved to be listened to. When she excitedly tells me about what happened at the snack table at school, I try to stop what I’m doing and truly listen to her words. I don’t just listen to respond, but I also listen just to hear her. To know what is going on in her life and in her brain. I feel like this habit and listening relationship will only lead to more open conversations…which will be invaluable as she gets older and encounters heavier life issues.
7. Tell her how amazing she is.
“You’re wonderful. You are special. And you’re my favorite.”
These are the words I whisper in my daughter’s ear every day before school and every night as I kiss her to sleep…in hopes that my words of love and belief will ring louder in her ears than the words of those who try to cut her down through life. I want her to know how amazing I think she is. That I believe in her. That I know she is capable of doing incredible things. I once read that they way you talk to your child becomes their inner voice. I can only hope so….
Life moves fast and its easy to get lost in the hustle of parenthood. But the little moments count. Truly, they do. The little moments are what make a childhood. They are when strong relationships are created. Little moments are the when trust is built. And these are the moments that I am guaranteed to have every day with my daughter. These valuable little moments that will forge our mother-daughter bond. The little moments filled with the little things that we do together every day.