Tuesday, July 31, 2012

the best piece of parenting advice I've ever gotten

I have her on speed-dial. And I text her about 13 times a day (and that's just before Aaliya's nap time!). She is my Sally Clarkson of sorts.  I honor and admire her and the fruit her mothering has bore. And she has my mother's name-- Jesus' gentle kiss on my forehead.

I was stealing some of her time on this particular day to talk about routine. I now have a just-about-two-year-old (yikes! Where in Heavens has time gone?) that is very... head-strong bold and loud lively and of course our newest baby addition. Life with two kids is significantly different than life with one. I thought some of the tantrums Aaliya'd been throwing had to do with a lack of routine. Turns out there's more routine to my day than I'd originally thought (boo-yahhh!).  Then she asked me the heart wrenching question... "Do you spend time with her alone, playing?

Mehh. I try. And earlier that morning, as I'd attempted to sit and play with my daughter, I realized that I didn't know how to just sit and play. I was completely at a loss when I went to sit down with her. And that made me feel really really bad. I don't want to be the kind of parent that never plays with her child. When I answered her, I answered her half-heartedly and told her "Yeah, kind of."

She could sense something was kind of wrong and she gently probed. "Were you played with as a child? Did you play a lot as a child? I can tell you're kind of sad."

Yes. No. Sort of. All I know how to do is educational stuff.  I'm a teacher by nature and by profession.  Whether I'm teaching adults about nutrition, teenagers about abstinence and their incredible value or my almost two year old the ABC's and 123's, I am always teaching. I am by definition the "non-fun" parent. I can sit down and teach her while playing any day all day, but my husband is insanely good at just playing with them.  All the kids anticipate Daddy's return home from work because they know Daddy is going to drop everything by the door and run and chase after them.  He will tickle them and tackle them and enjoy their presence as much as they enjoy his.

Sighh. I'm not doing anything right. 

And then she encouraged me and my weary Mama heart...

Just take 10,15,20 minutes every day and run around with her. Have no agenda, nothing to read, nothing to teach her.  Do whatever she likes to do.

"In my child's case that would be running around and screaming."

Well then run and scream too.  Children need to know they are enjoyed and appreciated beyond the practical (my educationally minded brain).

And so, there it is. The best piece of parenting advice I've ever received.  Be intentional about just playing with your kids.  Kick off the shoes every day and be silly for just a bit.  Tickle them, laugh, scream, jump in the mud with them (uhh, I'll build to that one) and just be intentional about being unintentional and spontaneously fun with them-- every single day.

How often do you play with your kids?  What kinds of things do you do?

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