Raising kids is a thankless job. It's also never ending.
I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know, right? But the reality of a thankless and never ending job means that it often becomes drudge work. We wake up and see a mountain of work ahead of us. We've got to get the kids from Point A to Point B, all the while feeding them healthy and delicious meals, conserving the environment, being a great employee as well as a daughter/friend/wife. The stress of it is enough to make up crazy, and many times, our children are the ones who feel the brunt of it. They see us running around, short tempered and easily annoyed. They often are with us the vast majority of the day and see us in the least favorable light. Seeing myself through my children's eyes is often a wakeup call. I'd love every day to be sunshine and unicorns, but that's just not going to happen.
What are some ways I can make the little moments in an otherwise stressful day feel special?
- Capture a moment. Take a breath. Take a moment. Pick up your baby, pull your middle school child off the computer, and take five minutes. Just be. Enjoy the cuddling of your baby or the way your toddler loves to dig in the dirt. Ask older kids leading questions - what did you learn today? What was your favorite part of today? What did you like least? If you could go anywhere, where would it be? Often, taking that five minutes can help you get into a better place. It also fosters creativity in your child that creates a memory.
- It sounds silly, but place an imaginary camera in your head. During a good time, snap a photo in your brain. (My daughter told me this idea when she read it in a Cam Jansen book, and it stuck with me. The best ideas often come from little mouths.) When I'm stressed, when I'm tired, when my boss is yelling at me and the toilet has overflowed, reflect on those pictures. It helps to bring perspective back.
- The Family Poster. One summer, we just didn't have the funds for any summer camps or travel. Instead of obsessing on what we didn't have, I created a poster that I hung in the kitchen. On the top, I wrote "Our Summer of Family Fun." Every day, I tried to add something to the poster. We made homemade pretzels. We went to the pool with friends. We made rock candy and had a water balloon fight. Even if it was just a minimal action - we created playdoh pizzas - it went on the poster. By the end of the summer, we had a fantastic reminder of the fun activities we'd enjoyed together as a family.
- The bedtime talk. It can be very tempting to toss your kids into bed, especially if you are mentally or physically exhausted, but try to take just a moment with each of them. We play "Best of Times, Worst of Times". Each of the children is challenged to think of at least one thing about the day for each category. The kids often surprise me with what they come up with - it might have been a little thing to me, but many times, the little things are what they remark on the most often.
- Share your childhood memories. Are you trapped in the car on a never ending road trip? Talk about the things that your family did when you were a kid, trapped in a car on a road trip. Did you pick up your feet when you crossed over state lines? Did you always stop at Stuckey's? Did you make duck bills out of two Pringles potato chips? Sharing those memories humanizes you to your child, and maybe you will start new traditions of your own.
- Have your child join you. Maybe you are making dinner for what feels to you to be the 1,000,000th time. It's not for your child. I hate hand washing dishes, but my 7 year old loves it. Every night, I fill up the sink for her and she cleans, all the while talking a blue streak. I've learned a lot about her this way, made a memory, AND gotten some clean dishes to boot.
What are some ways that you make tiny moments special with your child?