Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to "enjoy your kids"

"Enjoy your kids now. They grow up so fast."

Every time someone says those words to me, I usually have one of three mental reactions, depending on my emotional/spiritual state at the time (and whether or not I've gotten "pee pee'd" on yet that day):

(1) nod and say, "Wow, you're right. Thanks for the reminder."
(2) cock my head to the side and say, "And how exactly would you recommend that I do that?"
(3) hand my son off to them and say, "Here, YOU enjoy him for an hour. I'm going shopping."

I'm joking (about #3... sort of...), but Humor is good friends with Honesty, right? In other words, I'm laughing, but I mean it. How am I supposed to enjoy my child's childhood if I can't get past the dirty dishes, diapers, tantrums, un-plannable schedules, constant loads of laundry, lost sleep, crabbiness, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.?

Sometimes, your kids get to you. (And I only have one. Oh brother. Moms and dads of two kids or more are rolling their eyes right about now...)

I'm twenty-six years old. I like skinny jeans, and stilettos, and vanilla lattes, and practicing the guitar, and salsa dancing, and staying up past 10 p.m. to finish the delicious book I picked up the other day. But I've also got a toddler, and so my likes and preferences are sometimes necessarily postponed, or adjusted, to fit the needs of my family. It's how it is (and yep, it is good)... but it's also hard to enjoy it. I'm good at faking it ("Ohhh, YES, Charlie and I just frolicked the day away. We are awesome, La La La!!!"), but not always so good at meaning it.

And so, just in case anyone else ever feels remotely the way I do, I've been working on a list of ways to really enjoy my baby boy. Granted, he's a 1-year-old, so this list will obviously look different for someone who has an infant, or a 3-year-old, or a 13-year-old. But, for what it's worth, here's what I've got:

*Have a tickle-fest when he's cranky. (Does this work with any other kids? Charlie's got such a one-track-mind that he can go from "MOMMY = DISLIKE" to "MOMMY = TICKLE = GOOD!!!!" in three seconds flat.)

*When you're in the middle of something, and he's whining and pulling on your pants, get down on the floor and play with him for ten minutes. Often, just sitting down and getting at his eye level gives him the attention he needs. (Sometimes, if I'm cooking or stirring things in a bowl, I'll get my stuff and put it on the floor, and let him help me.)

*Make a rockin' "to-do with my little guy" list, and pick something once a week. (Make Paper Airplanes. Take a Train Ride. Go to Starbucks, Buy Coffee For Me and Milk for Him. Go To an Art Museum and See How Long We Last Before We Get Kicked Out.) I try to tell myself, "Geez louise, woman, it's a gift to stay at home with your kids. Start acting like it."

*Go to a toy store and run around, pushing all the obnoxious toy buttons. (Charlie hasn't yet figured out that it's possible to actually take toys home with you. We'll see how long that lasts...)

*Keep a journal of all the funny things he does and says. (I'm terrible at writing in it, but I love looking back and seeing how much I've already forgotten about. Like when we got tired of him grunting in the car whenever he didn't like the song that was on, so we taught him how to say "Please," and now, all we hear in the car is, "Please. Please. Please. Please. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE.")

*Make a baby box. Put his first shoes, his first haircut (is it weird that I kept his hair? oh dear.), his first whatever, inside and then ooooh and aaaah about how big he's getting.

*List the ways you've changed for the better since you've had kids.

*Go to the park. Play until he's ready to leave.

*Give him rides down the hallway in the laundry basket. (If you have wood floors, put a towel underneath, or else you'll scratch your floors. Ooops.)

*Pick a random, everyday-day, and take a picture every hour, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Print the pictures out, stick them in an album, and write little captions. (You'll probably treasure this in the years to come -- or at least, your kids will. I'd love to have something like this from my mom, when I was a baby.)

There's so much more, but that should get me (and you) started. I'd love to hear your ideas, too -- how do you spend time enjoying your kids? How do you savor the moments you have with them, instead of just barreling through your steroid-pumped to-do list like a crazy person, running around with baby under one arm and laundry basket under the other? (Or, um, is that just me?)

At the end of the day, I'm learning that "enjoying Charlie" means putting his best interests first, ahead of my own. It's hard, and tiring, and Marty and I still get that cock-eyed stare from people who say, "Umm, you're not convincing us that having kids is any fun."


If you want "Fun," go ride a roller coaster. (sheesh, you people.)

If you want "unforgettable, life-changing, incredible-and-horrible-and-wonderful, all at the same time"... well then, have a baby.

(And then, enjoy it. I hear it doesn't last forever.)



Arlene Wezeman said...

When you have more than one child you get to take turns going out on "dates" with one child each...when there are two children...more as you add to the family..enjoying each one differently and the same. So the first time you have Charlie and Marty has the 2nd child...and then the next time Marty has Charlie and you have the second child. Or while Charlie is the only child each parent gets a "special" day to have full control for the afternoon/evening...whatever works and the other parent gets to have some "me/quiet" time. That was when I got to clean the house. do dishes. or just take a relaxing bath. So enjoy Charlie and take time to remember that he is your special child.

Susan said...

Hey Sherah!

Having a 23 and 20 year old I'm a little rusty on the sleepless-crabby-peed-on-sticky-kisses place you're currently at - but I LOVE your list and think it sounds like you're doing a great job of mothering. You hit the nail on the head that being a parent is one of the hardest roles you'll ever undertake (thankfully also one of the most rewarding).

My thoughts around being a parent would also include sorta what Arlene said that each child is different and you and Marty will have to adjust the way you parent for each one (which is a little frustrating - it worked for baby #1 why isn't it working for baby #2?), but it's true.

I'd also suggest that "compare and despair" become your new mantra. You know your son better than anyone else (except for your husband) and you know what's best for him. Sure there are child experts who you can learn from - but bottom line you are Charlie's best advocate. Never forget that. My son drank from a baby bottle until he was 5. My daughter sucked her two middle fingers until she was 7. I did not potty train either of them (and - surprise! - they both know how to, and use, the toliet!). Letting go of what others might or might not be thinking is huge and will serve you - and Charlie - well.

God's blessing on you, Marty and Charlie!

Hope to see you in Jubilee Furniture soon!

Katie G said...

I love reading your posts. You always have such quality photos and thoughts to share.

Sherah said...

Thanks, Arlene and Susan! Thoughts from moms "on the other side" are always encouraging, to say the least :) Susan, I'm trying to make it into Jubilee one of these days! Marty keeps hoping I don't, because, well, I like to spend too much money there ;)

And Katie, thank you! What a sweet compliment :) Hope all is well in sunny Florida!

georgia b. said...

oh my goodness, sherah. YOU need to be writing... as in BOOKS! you are A) hilarious, B) hilarious, and C) hilarious! oh, and D) right on the money, E) a shot in the arm for any mom who needs to commiserate with other moms about how hard it is to be a mom, and F) delightful and encouraging. and finally, G) you have some absolutely creative and endearing ideas... so you are helpful... all makings for a great mom book that would sell thousands of copies, i think! well, i'd buy it, anyway.

i read every hilarious, true-to-life word. first of all, yes... everybody says that! EVERYBODY. "it goes so fast, so enjoy it." JUST TODAY, someone left a comment on my bumble bee post that said that. and i don't disagree... they are SO right... i've witnessed it first-hand {i can't believe how much isaac has changed already}. but i know what you mean... only, i could not have expressed it so comically as you.

i'm so gonna try your idea about the "take a photo" every hour" thing. brilliant!

i have to say... i have come to the point where i downright ignore my to-do list if i have to... just so i can give isaac attention. it's not that he is old enough to demand or nag me for it yet {though he does cry when he wants something}. but i know that if i don't stop what i'm doing sometimes to just sit and soak in all that he is doing, seeing, observing, learning, feeling... i will miss it. and because this might quite possibly be our only kiddo, i desperately want to witness it all... not miss a beat.

that said, i have GOT to try some of your suggestions here. i try to play with him as much as i can. i sit him on my lap while i read others' blogs or work on my photos {he loves to see the photos of himself}. i hold him by his hands and let him stand and try to walk {like he ALREADY is wanting to do}. i hang out with him and tickle him or make noises until he laughs. i read to him. but those are all age-old practices. i like your twist on things.

just reading this post, i can tell you are an awesome mom. and i should have known. if you are the kind of person that stops where they are in the middle of their kitchen to pray for a friend, then you are certainly the kind of person that stops whatever they are doing to make a son feel very loved and appreciated and cared for and happy... to make them giggle and make them feel fulfilled. and reading this confirms it.

anyway, you had me in stitches here. it was funny to go from your short and sweet "life is good" post to this very lengthy one. two wonderful ends of a spectrum of good blogging! love the photos, too!

let me know when you are ready to write that book! you NEED to! {don't give me any excuses! we used to work together at a book publisher... i KNOW you have connections!!} =)

georgia b. said...


my friend, shalice {who also worked at crossway}, has three under the age of three. i dare not complain to her when i feel overwhelmed by how hard it is to be a mom! {she's pretty much a super mom.} so it's nice to see someone in the same "boat" as me... only one kid, but still finding it difficult some days. but so rewarding, too. SOOOOOOOOOO rewarding.