Our lives are becoming increasingly full and crowded. A family with young kids has multiple obligations thrust upon them by outside forces. Schools, churches, clubs, sports activities, dance or Karate classes, parent-teacher meetings…the list can go on and on. The parents do not intentionally choose many of these. They are obligations that organizations put upon you and they expect your cooperation.
If you were to fulfill all the obligations that these outside organizations ask of you, you would never sleep or sit down at all. It cannot be done and remain a sane parent. Choice must be made. Do not allow the most urgent need usurp your values for your family and the time they deserve from you.
In other words; you get to choose how you spend the majority of your time. You have the right to say, “No”. As a parent, you get to set up your own standard of conduct for yourself and your children. You can create the atmosphere of your home and family life. It is up to you and your spouse to chose what is important to you.
Outside activities are very important and vital to healthy growth, socially and physically. Be aware of what sports or music interests your children have and nurture them as much as you can. Music lessons or Little League are worthwhile and a valuable piece of a child’s life.
It can be very tempting to say, “yes” to every club and fun-sounding gathering, but it is important that you learn to pick and choose the best way for your family to spend their time, energy and money outside the home. Otherwise you will become exhausted and frustrated with the time spent in the car transporting people from one place to another constantly. Resentment can rise up in unexpected ways when this occurs.
The sweet and relaxed lazy moments will disappear and that is a high price to pay for being in a club. Your kids need down time, you need down time. Time to take a slow walk, time to do a puzzle or read a book aloud to each other. Lie on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds. Can’t imagine doing that? Then you may be too busy.
If a full schedule has overtaken you, it may be time to re-evaluate how you spend your time each week. How?
1. Choose a quiet chunk of time after the kids are in bed.
2. Get out some pen and paper or your laptop.
3. Make a list of your weekly activities.
4. Include all clubs, meetings, volunteering, services, classes etc. Everything you and your kids do each week.
5. Honestly examine which are most important and which can be dropped.
6. You may want to ask your kids the next day for their true opinions are about the activities they attend. You might be surprised.
7. Contact the leaders or teachers of the group and explain your decision to step away.
8. Be strong.
9. Watch for sweet moments with your little ones. Be aware and ready to listen, even if the story, joke or dream seems to last way too long.
10. Your years with kids in the home are to be cherished, not wished away. Make them count. The kids are worth it.
Tips for Being Good Company with a Toddler
It may seem like staying home would be the best plan when you have a toddler or two. It is so complicated to leave the house with little ones. They require a lot of equipment and they get cranky or fussy and sometimes the visit simply is not a fun and relaxing one. So the temptation to just stay home for a few years may be very strong. But don’t give in. There are some ways to make it easier to travel with toddlers, at least for one afternoon!
You want to be able to actually chat and laugh with your friends and they want to be able to be heard above the sound of the kids playing. If you want return invitations there are a few tips that will make you “good company” to have over. It takes some planning, as does everything when a toddler is involved!
• Nap time – Be aware of your child’s need for rest and do not schedule a visit that will interfere with the naptime. A tired and cranky child is not a fun visitor.
• Pack snacks – Yes, your hostess will probably tell you that she has goodies already and don’t bother to bring food. But you know your child and most toddlers love the familiar. Don’t risk watching him turn his nose up at the treats your friend has chosen.
• Pack small quiet toys – Your toddler will love playing with the new and unusual toys at your friends home, but she may also need her own to feel more at ease and content. Your host may not have kids, so in that case this would be a vital tip to remember.
• Pack extra clothes – You never know what accidents may happen, whether it’s a messy diaper or spilled milk, you’ll be glad you have something fresh to put on your little one when needed.
• Watch your child – This is so important and one thing that is often forgotten. Just because you are happily occupied with your friend, do not assume that the host’s kids have good care for your kid. Even if they are quiet, always be aware of what your child is doing and where he is at all times!
• Don’t touch – Instruct your child before arrival that he is not to touch anything in the house without permission. Once you are there and he grabs a trinket off the coffee table, the hostess may smile and say that it is ok, but she may not mean it. She could be being polite and does not want to embarrass you. Carefully remove it and place it out of reach discreetly.
• Keep it short – A short calamity-free visit is better than a long and tiring one for all people involved.
Of course, if you are visiting a close friend who has kids the same age, many of these tips will not be appropriate. But a visit with a new friend and especially in a home without children, will be a much more peaceful one with these tips in mind.