The more research I do the more I am finding out that the secret to spending time with children lies in our ability to be present. So this year I am making my New Year’s Resolution to give the gift of PRESENCE to my children. Although every family structure is different we all have one thing in common and that is TIME. We all have 128 hours a week and how we choose to spend those hours is something that we have to grapple with and take very seriously.
So how do we find more time in our day? While researching ways to find more time, I stumbled across this great article entitled: Making Quality and Quantity Time Count. While the article was geared toward working fathers, I felt like as a working mom, it was speaking directly to me! I hope you find some of these practical tips useful and maybe PERFECT PRESENTS you can give to your children this year.
Make space for the kids in your activities. There are many activities that honestly are done much quicker without bringing our children with us. These day to day activities we do without our children can become opportunities for your child to learn something new and a chance for you to get more time with your little ones. Trips to the grocery store, volunteer meetings, hardware store, washing the car, walking the dogs, cooking, loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, and even paying bills can be an opportunity to have a little one with me. Children don’t care what you are doing they just want to be PRESENT with me.
Focus on positive activities. Now let’s be realistic. Taking a child grocery shopping can be stressful at times. My job is to make it a positive one whenever possible. As we walk through the aisles I will work to give them jobs, talk about our food choices, and encourage them to “help” along the way. Just “dragging” my kids along won’t make it a positive learning experience for them. I will need to be PRESENT in the moment in order to get them engaged and excited for the task at hand.
Simplify and recognize the stages of life. This might have been my favorite point the article made. We can NOT do it ALL! If I want to be PRESENT with my children right now while they are young that means I have to be willing to sacrifice a spotless house! This is not a problem for me! You might be an avid golfer, hunter, or football fan and while the children are young those things might just have to be enjoyed a little less in order to get time with the kids on the weekends. Knowing that children are not young forever and our future relationship with them depends on the connection I make with them now is enough for me to scale back on my hobbies to spend more time with them. There will come a time in life where I will miss them and will wish for this time back. I will have plenty of mall window shopping….one day!
Organize the must-do's. Now there are MUST-DO chores in order to keep our family running smoothly. Laundry, dishes, raking leaves, fixing the car, paying bills and dusting are all things that need to be done. A little advanced planning on things like household chores can really free up your time. Splitting these weekly chores up throughout the week will help me to focus on getting it done quickly and in small chunks rather than leaving it all to be accomplished on the weekends! Some of these must-dos can even include my oldest son so that he can learn to be a part of making our family function.
Be fully PRESENT when you are home. If I am brutally honest with myself I would have to say that I GET DISTRACTED. Technology is a great tool but can often suck up my life. My kids KNOW when I am trying to multi-task and they know when I am not PRESENT and really listening to them at night. I am going to put the computer, phone, and television on pause while my kids are awake and devote the evenings to them rather than something that can wait till they are in bed asleep! The research is clear that even 10-20 minutes of real play-time impacts a child’s life in the long run.
I think these few strategies really will help me to be a more focused, joyful, and PRESENT parent. There is no better gift than that of time and it truly is the ONE thing I can give them that does not cost a thing but makes the biggest impact on their lives!
“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”
–Dr. Seuss from How the Grinch Stole Christmas