With every passing breath, our kids are growing up and growing away from us. Before we know it, they’re moving out and starting their own families. If you’re thinking, “My child is an infant, I have a LONG way to go before that happens,” let me tell you, time flies faster than you can even imagine. That’s why it’s so important to treasure your kids when they’re little because they don’t stay that way for long.
Treasure Your Kids When They’re Little, They Won’t Stay That Way for Long
Time moves in the strangest manner when you have kids. Some days feel like they’ll never end. You know which days I mean, don’t you? Your kids are sick, your husband is sick, you’re sick…sheesh, even your dog is sick! Meanwhile, you have an 80-page paper due on the migration habits of fruit flies for your night class. Will this day EVER end?
The next day, everyone is feeling great, kids are in a terrific mood, your paper is done, and you’re living a life of pure bliss. You wake up, blink, and boom…the day is over. As much as we wish those days would last forever, we know that good times go by fast, so we vow to make the most of every single second…and we succeed! We snap photos, we laugh, we bond. We’re present and truly treasuring the moment.
Then, of course, there are all those days in the middle. Thousands upon thousands of “mediocre” days. The kids aren’t grumpy, but they’re not exactly bursting with joy either. You’re not sick, but you do have that dull headache. Even your dog is just sort of there.
It’s so easy to get lost in daydreams, go through the motions, and just sleepwalk through these types of days. That’s when you really need a reminder to treasure your kids the most! How do we make those small moments really count, though? In other words, how do we make memories out of the unmemorable? I have a few suggestions that will help you.
Spend time with them, not just near them
I think we often confuse spending time near our kids with spending time with them. For example, we promise them a “Mommy and me” outing, so we take them to their favorite park. Then, we sit on our phones texting away while they play alone two feet from us. We go home and tell everyone what a wonderful day we had spending time with our kids.
Sorry, but just being in the same general vicinity as your kids doesn’t qualify as spending time with them. Now, no one is saying you can’t chat on the phone while your kids are playing close by. Children need free and unstructured play, after all. They certainly don’t need us micromanaging them every second, and goodness knows we do need a little adult conversation. However, if you promise your kids that you’ll spend time with them, actually spend it engaging with them. It’ll be a more meaningful day for both of you.
Really listen when they talk to you
Your son is in the middle of telling you a loooooooong story about how his best bud Tommy found an 8-legged cricket, but it turned out to be a spider and, oh it wasn’t real, it was on his favorite show that by the way is getting canceled next month isn’t that so sad and…you get the run-on-sentence point. Meanwhile, you’re “uh-huh’ing” away and thinking about whether you remembered to add milk to your shopping list.
We’re all guilty of doing the zoned out, “uh-huh” thing, so don’t feel bad. However, if you really want to treasure your kids when they’re little, try tuning into those crazy long (and let’s be honest, not all that exciting to us) stories. See, buried beneath every long-winded tale is a wealth of information about how your child sees the world. Plus, one day when he’s off on his own, you’ll miss these daily “news” reports from him.
Celebrate small milestones
We have this tendency to measure our kids’ lives in major milestones. During the first year, we celebrate nearly every other day. First time he slept through the night, rolled over, laughed, ate solid food, took a step, took two steps in a row, ran! We fill out every line of every page in that first-year baby book. It’s magical!
Then, our kids hit their 1st birthday and it goes a little like this: First day of kindergarten, 10th birthday, 13th birthday, the first day of high school, 16th birthday, graduation, college graduation, marriage. No wonder it feels like our kids grow up so fast! If we just looked back at the milestones, we’ll have celebrated a grand total of like 8 days in our children’s lives.
I’m not saying you have to turn every moment into an epic “rent a party hall and call in the clowns” celebration. Just make it a point to truly remember the smaller moments and honor their place in molding your child into the person he’ll become. Here’s a tip: keep a journal and jot down one tiny memory every day. You don’t have to write a novel-length entry. Even just “2/7/20- Tommy finally learned how to tie his shoes! Yay!” will help you remember the smaller joys of parenting.
Take family vacations
From making your kids smarter to helping everyone live longer, there are so many amazing benefits to family vacations. To me, though, getting to spend totally uninterrupted time with my family is the #1 benefit by far. If you can travel, absolutely do so. I’m not saying you have to spend a fortune for a week-long getaway somewhere exotic. I know that not everyone has the money for an actual vacation. Try a staycation in your hometown, or even just in your own home. It’s not about where you go, it’s about how you spend the time. As long as you’re spending it together, it counts!
Have weekly “unplugged” family date nights
If you can’t even take two days off in a row for a family staycation (many parents are working multiple jobs, so even a full weekend off is a luxury), make the most of whatever time you DO have to spend together by removing distractions. Pick one night a week (say, Friday nights) and make it an “unplugged together” night. Turn off and put away anything with a screen. That includes the TV! Then, break out the board games, crafting supplies, or other non-digital activities and spend the night just hanging out together as a family. It’s really amazing what you can learn about your kids when you clear out all of the distractions.
Just let them be kids
From exceedingly high expectations to overscheduled activities to massive chore charts that fill any leftover time, one of the biggest reasons that our kids’ childhoods go by so fast is because WE are making them grow up too fast. Kids today have very few opportunities to explore the world in a free and unstructured way. To make mistakes. To have big messy feelings. To laugh, play, and dream. To just BE.
Try to remember what it was like to be their age. Let them have their magic and wonder while they still can. More importantly, let them share that magic and wonder with you. Let them be kids, and enjoy every moment of it.
Above all else, no matter how busy you get or how overwhelmed you feel by parenthood, take a minute every day to really look at your kids and think about how much wonder they bring into your life. You will never, ever regret spending too much time with your children. You will, however, regret it if 18 years fly by and you have no real memories to hold onto when they’re out in the world without you. So please, treasure your kids when they’re little. They truly won’t stay that way for long.