You guys, this parenting thing is HARD. It’s hard even on the best of days – when you’re well rested, well fed, and emotionally content. On the less than great days it can feel so defeating. My admitting that it’s hard doesn’t take away from any of the joyful parts – and we know there are many – it also won’t make it any less hard, but hopefully it can make you feel less alone.
Among the many things that make parenting hard, the one that is a huge struggle for me is balance. How do I balance my kids needs and desires against my own? They don’t always live in opposition but they occasionally do. If I feel like I need 60 minutes to myself in my room, how does that balance my child’s need to have me sitting next to him while he builds legos or his desire to have me play catch?
I don’t feel like every waking moment my child and I are together we have to be engaged. Similarly it isn’t fair to him if in all of our time together my phone is in my hand. (Y’all I’m trying to break the habit, I really am!) Before I became a parent I had strong beliefs about things like screen time, beliefs that in my current reality are just unreasonable and in past realities were plain laughable. A single parent in school full-time? Let’s be real, my child was lucky to be fed and read to – ok it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good either. We’ve recently entered a new season of life, one that’s a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful.So now I am in the process of examining our day to day.
It’s not that I’m hoping to increase the quantity of time AJ and I spend together necessarily, but I do want more quality time. I’m looking at our interactions and asking, how can I up the quality of them. I have had so many ideas swirling around in my head – a well thought out pinterest activity perfect for instagramming everyday? YES!… no.. I have so much respect for parents who pull these things off but it isn’t me. By the time I’ve compiled the list of things we’d have to find or buy to accomplish the pinterest worthy activity — I’m already bored and burnt out. When I sat and really thought about the few times I’ve actually managed to get an activity to the kitchen table, AJ and I have had fun. But it’s never been an activity that gets talked about months later.
Speaking of activities that get talked about later, when I really stopped and listened to AJ and the memories he brings up later on – you guys it’s so simple:
“Remember that time we made our own pizzas together?”
“Remember when we went on a walk to the shopping place and I jumped off that ledge?”
“Remember when I helped with the laundry and we played that game where I was the king?”
“Remember that time we watched a movie and we made the fancy popcorn and s’mores together?”
So many of his favorite memories have come from the times I’ve simply made more of an effort to include him in the activities I would be doing anyway. Maybe you can relate, but if I’m able to cross of the things on my to do list, I’m more relaxed and happy spending time together. What I hadn’t realized however, is that like all kids AJ also gets boosts to his self-worth when he feels like he’s contributing to the household – and let’s face it, I have not figured out a sustainable way to manage chores. The past week I’ve made more of an effort to ask AJ if he wants to help while I do [insert mundane chore here] and sometimes he says “no” but sometimes he says “yes” and maybe it takes an extra five minutes to accomplish an activity but it is so much more fun when we do it together and I love that we’re creating new “Remember whens.”
I truly believe if I hadn’t noticed and started listening for the “Remembers” coming out of AJ’s mouth I’d still be in the kitchen cooking by myself. Stewing in guilty feelings that I wasn’t at the table creating indoor sand castles with a nine year old who would quite frankly rather be rowing himself down the alley with a skateboard and a stick.