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 still has them, even if it is harder than we expected. 😉
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. 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 no 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, whether with your camera or a pen and paper, 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 and allow you to live more in the now with your loved ones.
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.) We need each other.
27. Organize some one-on-one dates with your children. If you need structure for this (and simplicity!), try letting your child stay up 15 minutes late—to do something just with you—on the date of her birthday every month. For example, a child born on April 16th would have one-on-one time every 16th of the month.
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.
32. Experience something new with them—something they’ve never seen.
This is your motherhood. You only get to do it once.
In the beautiful words of Diana Loomans:
“If I had my child to raise over again,
I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting, and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch,
and watch with my eyes…
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields,
and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging, and less tugging…
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love or power,
And more about the power of love.”
Photography courtesy of Colie James Photography