When I was pregnant with our first child, I was also working as a play therapist at the time. I remember thinking how excited I was about staying home with my future daughter and playing with her all day long (because that’s what moms do, right? They play with their children all day long). Little did I realize how busy moms of little ones really are- the house chores were all still the same- the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the shopping, etc. But now, I had a little one, so what usually took me no time at all, could now take hours on end. Suddenly, huge chunks of my day were simply gone. I remember wondering where exactly this time I used to have went. Well, it went to feedings and changings and bath time and dress time. Playtime? Playtime was sometimes nonexistent (and this coming from a trained play therapist!).
What I noticed with both of my kids, was when I made time for unstructured playtime; time when I would just sit on the playroom floor with them and let them lead the way, it was almost magical. You could see and feel their joy. Plus, I would get the most amazing smiles from my daughter the moment I sat down on the playroom floor (I can still see these smiles in my mind today), and my son, he would immediately run over and hug me each and every time I sat on that playroom floor (and he still gives the best hugs today!). It was like they were thanking me for taking time out of my day to spend quality time playing with them.
Which is kind of sad, right? Sad that I had dreams of playing with my kids for hours on end, which is exactly what they would have loved. But then life and other commitments sometimes got in the way, and robbed us of that precious time together.
I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t spend enough time with my kids when they were young, as we did spend a lot of time together, just not always playing as I had imagined in my pre-children mind. But, I did the best I could, and I know you do the best you can too! I just sometimes feel like as my kids get older, and farther and farther away from those little kids who just wanted mom to sit on the floor and play for simply a few more minutes, that today, I would love a few more of those sacred minutes back. Just to completely soak them up before they are gone forever and the kids are on to bigger and better things (in their minds, not mine!). I’m here wondering, as we all sometime are, just where exactly did all those little moments go?
One of my favorite authors is Rachel Macy Stafford. In her first book Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! she writes beautiful and heart wrenching stories about her daughters and how distracted she was during their early childhood years. Through many days, months and years of soul searching, she finally realized that she was too busy, too overcommitted, and too distracted by her phone/social media, etc. and she vowed to change. To change into someone with free time, someone who said no to events that did not add joy to her life, someone who actually shut her phone off (I know, right?). What happened? She reconnected with herself, with her husband and with her children, and now spends her time writing and speaking about the importance of connecting, really connecting, with one another.
Her book helped me realize that even though the unstructured playtime I imagined with my kids did not happen each and everyday, I did create a special bedtime routine with each of my children (parts that we still continue today), where we talk about our day, ask questions about the world around us, read books together and end with hugs, kisses and I love yous. It helps to see now that this daily connection time with each of my kids, time that I started carving out long ago, has since become a positive routine that continues to this day.
There are two categories of activities that we can take part in with our children:
- Unstructured activities such as dress up, playing with toys, drawing, playing outside, etc.
- Structured activities such as reading together, playing a board game, coloring in a coloring book, playing tag outside, etc.
What’s one activity, structured or unstructured, that you can do with your child/ren each and every day, so you can feel more connected to them, and they can feel more connected to you?
Mine’s reading together during our nightly bedtime routine… what’s yours?