Kids are bombarded with amazing opportunities from dance lessons, and soccer, to robotics, and drama club. One 8-year-old girl in my office counted ten after school activities she thought she just had to participate in to be happy. Mom was overwhelmed with the girl’s repeated demands to take her to all those events and buy her all the things that went with all the clubs, practices, and performances.
It got me thinking. All this pressure to keep kids entertained and accomplished can leave moms feeling overwhelmed and enslaved. How often did I lose sight of my own wishes, wants, and needs trying to give my son all the opportunities and experiences? Was I doing what was best for him?
Thinking it through, I’ve noticed when kids are stressed with too many entertaining activities, meltdowns tend to follow.
Let me tell you a story. When my son, Ryan, was about seven, we went on a family vacation to Southern California. I was so excited. It was the first time I’d been back to Southern California since I’d moved away when I was twelve. There were so many things I wanted to do on this trip. We only had five days but I packed our schedule full. I didn’t want to miss a thing. It might be my only opportunity to show my son the old familiar things from my childhood.
We went to the ocean, to Disneyland, to Knots Berry Farm, the Natural History Museum and the Le Brea Tar Pits. We visited family I hadn’t seen in years and drove out to see the house I grew up in.
By the time we got to Universal Studios, we were all exhausted. Still, I pressed on. There were so many great spots to take pictures and shows to see that we forgot to stop for lunch. Suddenly, Ryan freaked out. He started yelling, crying and cursing. The poor child was completely overwhelmed with exhaustion and hunger. He just couldn’t go another minute. We didn’t have the patience to react well to his meltdown either. It was a colossal disaster that taught us all the importance of pacing ourselves.
Hindsight’s a great teacher. If you’re like me and you need a few suggestions, here’s what I suggest: a gradual step down procedure. Ease into a new more balanced lifestyle.
Start by looking for activities that are simple to do with your child, like snuggling together in a hammock, or dancing in the rain, or making chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Look for activities that are high on relationship and sharing, and low on preparation and stress. Choose activities that teach your kids to enjoy simple pleasures. When you do, you’re modeling the kinds of activities kids can do themselves.
The time you take to connect with your child now will pay dividends later in life as you enjoy your adult children and their children’s children. The memories you make will be shared over and over as family stories.
Having fun together doesn’t have to be stressful. My son, Ryan, tells the story of a day when he was about three years old. I can hardly believe he’d remember being three years old but he says he remembers it vividly. He likes to recall a day when we were out in the yard playing in fall leaves. I tossed the leaves in the air and we both laughed and laughed. The memory of the joy he saw on my face is a memory he loves to remember. These memories set the stage for every interaction between him and I. They were the backdrop to every conflict that arose. They softened resentments and inspired forgiveness. Say no to things you don’t want to do. Make time for the simple, relational, and pleasurable things.
The way I see it, being a mom in a pandemic, doing all the things to keep the kids on track with their schoolwork at home, trying to keep up with work responsibilities from home, all while being cut off from your friends and family… facing an international crisis like we’ve never experienced in history…. YOU DESERVE A MEDAL OF HONOR!
Making decisions about whether to send your kids to school, to home-school, or to create a pod classroom experience for your kids is a whole new territory. The anguish of whether to allow your child to participate in sports or to keep them out, is something like the wild wild west of mothering. It’s uncharted waters. Who knows what’s how things will turn out for us and for our kids?
Maybe you don’t feel like you deserve any honors. Maybe you think I’m just saying that because I haven’t heard you yelling at your kids or seen you crying over the piled up laundry. Maybe you think you’re failing.
I have news for you. You’re doing the best you can and no one has had to do this before now. Not like this. This is something that you can’t go to your mom and ask how she handled it way back when. There’s no one who has been through this to help guide you through it.
Somehow, in the middle of it all, you found it within yourself to take your kids out for a walk. You found the motivation to put hearts on your door and bears in your windows. Some of you even drew inspiring messages on your sidewalks with chalk. You are not only doing it, you’re going above and beyond because here’s the thing, just getting through the basics is something you can be proud of right now.
I stand by what I said. YOU DESERVE A MEDAL OF HONOR.
And the basic principles of raising kids haven’t changed. Your kids still need loving connection and firm boundaries. They still need you to see things from their perspective and to help them problem solve from your perspective. They need you to understand and care about their feelings, their confusion, their fear, their joy and exuberance.
Take a moment and celebrate all the things that you’ve done all along that work, the same now as always. That bedtime routine provides your child a sense of comfort. That little smile you give them when you see them being kind to someone. The way you listen to their goofy noises and play along with them. The way you always say no to throwing the ball in the house. You’ve got this. You are MOM! That’s a pretty special role in a child’s life.