featured motherhood

32 Ways to Savor Your Children While You Have Them

I heard the sound of small feet trailing me, followed by his words—

“It’s okay, Mom.”

I pushed the hair off my forehead and sighed, recognizing that this was genuine empathy my son was showing me.

A minute before, I’d been mumbling a familiar script under my breath, something about me being the one who does all the work around here and getting nothing but complaints in return. I was put out, and at 8 years old, my oldest child was old enough to notice.

Those words—”It’s okay, Mom”—pulled me out of it. I softened and saw him as a human again (instead of one of my dependents).

He was right. It was okay. Deep breath: We have everything we really need.

I remembered for the millionth time how easy it is to get caught up in the doing of motherhood instead of just being with my kids. I thought of the wistfulness I sometimes hear in my mom’s or my mother-in-law’s voice when they talk about their days wiping up spills and spouting out times tables.

This is my motherhood, I said to myself. I only get to do it once.

These children? They’ll only be in my home for a short time. They’ll be mine forever, but they’ll never again need everything from me. Once they’ve outgrown my lap, they’ll never truly fit there again (although they’ll always be welcome). This is it.

So I tucked my son under my arm as we headed back upstairs. Then after the kids were shuffled to their rooms for the night, I got out a pen and started writing this list. Because… I have a feeling I’m not the only mom who wants to savor her kids while she has them, even if it is harder than we expected. ;)

Colie James Photography

32 Ways to Savor Your Children While You Have Them

1. Watch them when they sleep.

2. Inhale them after they bathe.

3. Steal some extra time brushing your child’s hair. (A wet brush is a must!) Keep on brushing it straight through the teen years.

4. Read the heartfelt things your kids write about you and let them sink in. (When our kids give us valentines or birthday cards, are we really taking their words in? It’s time to start.) 

5. Break a personal parenting rule or two. I recently took my 3-year-old daughter to get a pedicure. I mean, she’s three! But as it turns out, it’s a memory I’ll savor for a long time. 

6. Be silly. Sing at the top of your lungs in the car, dance in the grocery store, pull a harmless prank.

7. Let them climb into bed with you (sometimes).

8. Don’t round UP on their ages. Even if your child turns 7 in two months, keep thinking of him as 6. There’s need to hurry childhood along, right? (By the way, I do this with my own age, as well. I’ll be 32 until the day I turn 33.) ;)  

9. Fill your home with photos of them.

10. Practice living simply so your mind is clearer, which—in my case—helps me experience more moments as they come.

11. See your children through a camera lens. 

12. Capture not just their milestones but the scenes you see every single day.

13. Choose one thing you can accept, rather than tolerate. Letting go can alleviate so much agitation.

14. When they’re hurting, try to place yourself in a similar situation from your past and really remember what it felt like to be where they are.

15. Prop your phone camera up and use the time lapse feature to record a family meal or a homework session. Looking at it later will help you appreciate the beautiful chaos of raising children.

16. Watch them closely when their minds are fully engaged in something they love.

17. Do something for you. Often. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

18. Climb under some blankets and read to them. (And for those moments, choose not to let it bother you when you get sat on and accidentally elbowed a dozen times during your reading session.)

19. Get rid of guilt. It’s clouding your view.

20. Regularly take some time to remember your childhood. It’ll help you better appreciate theirs.

21. Claim for yourself and your family a distraction-free block of time. A morning with your laptop closed, an afternoon away from your phone…

22. Use this mental image to help you refocus on what—and who—really matters to you.

23. Make it your goal for a day to double the amount of eye contact you have with your children.

24. When you pack away a size of clothing your child has outgrown, make a little ritual of remembering this last stage and how quickly it passed.

25. Take more video footage!

26. Build yourself a supportive village. Not a lot of “savoring” goes on when you’re parenting on an island. (Too much energy is going to survival.)

27. Organize some one-on-one dates with your children.

28. If you child is old enough to text, take screen shots of cute text conversations you exchange.

29. If hurrying makes you agitated, try building more free space into your schedule so you don’t have to rush so much between activities.

30. Snuggle up with them for movie time.

31. Listen.

32. Experience something new with them—something they’ve never seen.

(For a printable version of this poem, hop over here.)

I’d love to hear—What little things help you really see and enjoy your kids? 

Beautiful lifestyle photography courtesy of Denver-based Colie James Photography

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  • Reply
    Daikuro @ SimplicityBlogger.com
    February 13, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Hi Erica,

    Thanks for the list. I think that you can also use these tips in other relationships in your life. It is all about being there for them and putting that different air of quality in your relationships while you still have the chance.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Absolutely, Daikuro! I think that’s an important reminder—to savor ALL of our relationships. Life is a delicate thing. <3

  • Reply
    Kristen Quayle
    February 13, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Beautiful post Erica,
    My youngest just turned 11, while I’m busy finding ways for parents to reconnect and earn an income writing, I realize that I’m missing so many moments that I should have tuned into more. While I have practiced many of your ideas, this post brought tears to my eyes realizing how little time we actually have.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 13, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      We’re all just doing our best, huh, Kristen? I know what you mean—sometimes it just strikes me how quickly the time goes, and I realize how, in a way, I’ve been hurrying it along. That’s why I write these reminders—for myself as much as anyone! Best wishes to you and your daughter, Kristen!

  • Reply
    Liz Schwab
    February 13, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    This was a great list! So nice to see concrete, doable ideas instead of just hearing “savor it – it goes by too fast.” We all know that, but it is hard to do!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 13, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      It’s SO hard, right, Liz! I need these too. Otherwise I’ll just feel guilty for never savoring enough. But lots of these little things we’re doing anyway, so high fives for us!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Lots of good suggestions in here! I especially love “Let them get messy, and experience it through their eyes.” I always try to remember that kids are washable.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      Ooh, that sentence—”Kids are washable.” I definitely need to remember that, Shannon—thank you!

  • Reply
    Bonnie McAuley
    February 14, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for this wonderful list. I am a working mom with 2 little ones and almost daily have a moment where I have to change gears to remember to really be present with them. I love the suggestion about doubling eye contact. My four year-ild will sometimes remind me to look at his eyes by gently moving my face in his direction. Our little ones are truly our greatest teachers!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 14, 2017 at 9:13 am

      They really are, Bonnie. I love that little detail! My 3yo will say, “Seriously, Mom,” when she realizes that I may be answering her with my words but I’m not really and truly paying attention. I always snap back into the present when she says those words.

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    February 14, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    My patience runs way too thin way too quickly with all the craziness surrounding me! I like these ideas. I especially want to do the time lapse one. :)

  • Reply
    February 15, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Love these ideas. Thank you for the list. I have found that one on my favourite savouring rituals is to take 5-10 minutes after my almost three year old has gone to bed and write down the funny, sweet, or crazy things he has said that day. I already love looking back on those notes! Also, taking 10 minutes to lay down with him at bedtime has proven to be one of our favourite times of the day. It is amazing what he shares during those quiet moments when we are all snuggled under the blankets.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Oh, good for you, Kate! It’s amazing how things you think you could never forget… you somehow end up forgetting. Until you re-read something you wrote or see a photo you took. It’s so valuable to document all the little things. <3

      Thanks so much for reading!

  • Reply
    February 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I loved reading this. One thing I do with my children is cook. It seems like every time I’m cooking or baking the up on the shelf helping me. It makes a huge mess and takes a lot longer, but they love it and I love watching them.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 15, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      That’s a great one, Caitlin! Let’s consider it #33. :) Also of note: You are a rockstar for cooking with your kids. Seriously! I love to on occasion, but I have to be in just the right mood, because of (as you said) the mess and the time it takes… oh and the potential for siblings to fight over who does what! ;) But I also remember lots of magical times in the kitchen, so it’s usually worth it when I do. <3

  • Reply
    February 17, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Oh, this is so good. I’m a huge fan of this.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 19, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Thanks so much for reading, Carla!

  • Reply
    Lucy Gooderham
    February 19, 2017 at 8:23 am

    My four boys love crazy. I have sometimes woken them in the night to watch the lightening, or hurry out into the snow. But my very favourite bit of being Mum is when they have nightmares; totally alone time in the dead of night we make up hilarious stories in hushed whispers and eat biscuits from my secret nightmare emergency stash:-) Even my 14 year old loves it!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 19, 2017 at 9:11 am

      Oh I love that, Lucy! If I were one of your boys, I might be having a nightmare every night! :) Such sweet memories in the making.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2017 at 8:52 am


    I love this song “Like a kid again” by Ashley Ludlow.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Erica, this is just what I needed. We are celebrating Family Day Weekend here in Ontario, Canada, and I couldn’t have read this at a better time. Beautiful and simple. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Family Day Weekend—I like the sound of this! So glad it came at a good time, Jessica! Thanks for reading!!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    This is lovely. I homeschool my daughter, so I am with my children all day, every day, but I sometimes feel so sad that I don’t soak it up more, or spend more fun time together instead of ‘strict mom time’ that usually happens.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 19, 2017 at 8:48 pm

      Understandable, Erika! I don’t homeschool (my hat goes off to you, big time!) but I do still have one at home with me, which means not a lot of kid-free time. With so much hands-on time, it feels like sometimes I’m running motherhood like a business. That’s why I write posts like this, to help me find moments to step back and just BE with them. We’re all doing the best we can! Sending love!

  • Reply
    Heidi Poelman
    February 21, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    This is such a good reminder of the beauty in motherhood. It is chaotic and crazy and stressful sometimes, but it is also precious and fun and truly a miracle to watch little people grow. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 21, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks so much for reading, Heidi!

  • Reply
    Donna Loesch
    February 24, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Erica, I really enjoyed your post on 32 Ways to Savor You Children While you have them. I wish I would have had all of this wisdom when I was raising my six children. It’s never to late however and I still have opportunities to savor my grandchildren. It is so nice to have a platform to share woman to woman and mother to mother so we realize that we are not the only ones going through something difficult. Thank you for sharing! Donna L.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 24, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks so much, Donna! I agree that it’s never too late, and I think there is something extra challenging about savoring your kids when you’re in the middle of raising them. My hope is that as long as I get moments of it sprinkled throughout that I’ll be satisfied down the road. (And grandchildren sound like fun!)

  • Reply
    February 26, 2017 at 1:30 am

    It’s funny. I had barely started reading when I saw the pic of eating a donut. I started crying because I do feel guilty of not doing enough with my kids or being to hard on them some times… but I bust my butt to go to the orchard and eat cinn donuts, have beach days with friends, snuggle when my 4 year old asks me to sit and snuggle her, read the bible in bed. We can all do more, we all have room for improvement but we need to also see what we do for our kids and give ourselves some credit. God has blessed me with 7 amazing kids. (Jesus is snuggling the twins) I have a 13 mo old up to 11. I love these kids so much and pray that God is guiding me along the way so I make him proud. Thanks for your article.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    What great advice and reminders. Lately I keep watching my son and thinking: the days are long but the years are short. He’s already 5 and I can’t believe how mature he’s getting. I try to remember to slow down and enjoy my moments with him. Thank you!

  • Reply
    February 28, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I am a single mother of a 17,12, and 11 year old. When the older two were in elementary we would plan a skip school day as long as their grades were good and didn’t have a test on that day. On that day we would sleep in an extra hour or two then go out to eat breakfast. After, breakfast we would plan to see a matinee movie and one more actitivity like going to the park, hiking, anything fun. We would end our skip school day with throwing some food on the grill and just laying around the house relaxing, because we were usually tired from a busy day. Their school work is a lot more demanding so we no longer have skip school days, however I will surprise them for lunch with food from their favorite restaurant once in a while. My 11 year old is homeschooled now and we have lots of bonding time like having our lessons outside on the lawn and even letting her choose some of the subjects. Last nine weeks we did viola lessons together. This nine weeks we are taking horseback riding lessons.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      February 28, 2017 at 10:57 am

      I love that! I recently wrote another post about how my mom let me take “personal days” in high school when I was overwhelmed. It was always just what I needed. But now that you mention it, I think taking even my younger kids out for a day off every now and then is genius! I imagine that those memories stick with them much better than the typical Saturday, because it was so unique. And your homeschool arrangement sounds pretty amazing too. (If only you could homeschool mine!)

  • Reply
    Jamie Cook
    March 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Eric ,

    This post really spoke to me. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2017 at 3:18 am

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    March Fabulous Finds - The Merry Momma
    March 27, 2017 at 5:03 am

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  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Beautiful post. So many great reminders of the importance of staying in the moment and being engaged with our kids versus just being with our kids.
    I find it helpful every morning to write about a positive experience from the day before. 90% of the time, i write something about what I did with my kids, or what I observed them do (riding our bikes to the store, seeing my son help a kid who fell down, listening to my daughter enthusiastically sing/act out “Let It Go”).
    Also, and it might be a bit morbid, if I’m playing a game with them and I find myself getting annoyed (the game is taking too long, they’re arguing about who goes first, etc.), I imagine not being able to play a game with them because something happened to me, or something happened to them, or they simply grew up and didn’t want to play games with me anymore. That usually snaps me right back to the present moment.
    Thanks for sharing this list. I will definitely keep it in my mind.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 30, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Wow, those are SUCH practical and… awakening (that feels like the right word!) ideas, Chris—Thank you! I’m going to try that last one. Morbid or not, being aware of what a gift time is is an effective way to embrace the moment. Thanks again!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I am thankful I usually did most of these things as my children were growing up. Nice post. :)

  • Reply
    April 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Erica,

    Thank you for this post. I have a 2 year old son and a newborn baby boy and girl. This post is very inspirational. I never really had much of a relationship with my parents and I try hard to make sure my children don’t suffer the same fate. This list really helps me set the right goals and take advantage of the moments together with my kids.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    That was reallh heart warming. Its true, its easy to be preoccupied with homework or housework instead of enjoying our children. One thing I do try to tell my kids is the little things my parents used to do for me like silly games my dad would play with me while driving in the car. If they’re ever being picked up by their grandad they always like to play these games. Which I hope they will continue to play even when they have kids. To play it with their children.
    Hopefully in this way they can keep our memories alive and look back with fond memories of us and their grandparents.
    There will be last times we do things with our children and not realise it.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      April 18, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      So beautiful, Naz—the idea of passing those little games on between the generations. Good for you for serving as the link between your dad and your kids (and hopefully their kids to follow). All the best!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Hi Erica,

    Thank you for this post. Hope you know how many parents you touched with this post. I am a mom of 2 yr twins and its easy to get lost in the motherhood whirlwind everyday. Our partners or elders cant always remind us to look beyond the craziness as their lives are equally busy too. But someday, moms like you pick up the pen and take us out on this beautiful journey of a mom. I love my children and constantly strive to do more with them, make more memories, play more, hug more, co-sleep, co-eat all before they grow up. Your post made me realize simple things that parents can miss out like -putting on their socks, just so you could marvel at those lil feet before they start wearing it on their own.

    So thank you for ‘bringing back the real me’
    I am glued to look forward to your new posts.


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