We’ve all heard the reminder to enjoy parenting, because children grow up so fast. Never before has that simple saying proved to be more true than watching my son — my adorable, sweet, 6-foot-1, 15-year-old baby — acquire an insanely deep voice and trot off to high school each morning. There are countless times a week when I just look at his face and see the beautiful, smiling toddler he used to be — in what seems like just yesterday.
What haunts me sometimes is the thought that I have spent, no, wasted, so much time stressing over completely inconsequential things. I squandered days working too much instead of enjoying the day with my kids, worrying over things that never ever happened, and over-preparing for things I didn’t need to in the first place.
If I could go back, I would press the rewind button, and then slow down and enjoy parenting so much more. That’s what I fully intend to do for the remainder of my boy’s teen years.
If you find yourself relating, follow these simple tips:
Slow down … literally! Stop rushing to cram in more tasks than you can easily manage each day. This only creates stress, which trickles down to your kids. It’s one of the quickest ways to create a chaotic home environment.
Repeat this small word: “No.” For such a tiny word, we sure have a hard time uttering it, and yet it can be the most freeing thing we do. By intentionally choosing to not overcommit, we are putting precedence on enjoying our lives (and our kids!) more.
Do the same for your children. Give your child recreational activities, but don’t sign him up for so many obligations that he has no downtime after school and on weekends. Children need time to recharge, as well as opportunities to do nothing. This is how creativity is cultivated. It’s also how children learn to restore themselves and learn to be who they are.
Enjoy the little things. You know how you were rushing to get to school or work, but your toddler wanted to look at the beautiful flower in the neighbor’s yard or the ants gathering on the piece of candy on the ground? These seemingly insignificant things can become some of the most-cherished moments. Humans were not made to live life at a frenetic pace. Ever notice how when you are at a beach or in a park, or somewhere else enjoying nature, that your stress levels decrease? Our children are very good at this. Take their lead.
Enjoy leisurely activities together. Schedule art time or story time and then be fully present during these special moments. Turn your phone off. Don’t half-listen. Be thoroughly and fully engaged.
Don’t rush milestones. So what if your friend’s baby can speak in full sentences or is potty trained? Stop worrying about when or if your child will do certain things and just let him be. Every single human on earth is different, and we need to embrace this. Our child’s unique ways should be respected and celebrated.
Danielle Sullivan is a writer living in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @Deewrite.
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