I've been called mom for more than 16 years. Honestly, it feels like it was just yesterday when I held my oldest in my arms and sang sweet songs to her and thought of the years of childhood spreading out with so much time to spare. In those years, and in the adding of six more fabulous children, I've learned a couple tips. Like these.
Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Rachel Martin's blog, Finding Joy. It has been posted here with the author's permission.
Stop what you are doing to look in the eyes of your children when they talk. Do not be the mom behind the screen, or with her back to them, or the one who they've learned mumbles "Mmhhmmm" and "In just a minute."
Put down (if you can) what you're doing and look at them.
Especially those funny things that you think you'll never forget — because you'll forget it. And then you'll be stuck saying things like remember when he did that and said that really funny thing? If you don't write them down, at least add a couple to Facebook so you have a record.
Remember what I said about me feeling like it was just yesterday that I was rocking my sweet oldest daughter Hannah? Just two weeks ago I was watching a large jet take off into the Minnesota sky with my daughter, my not so much a baby anymore, inside as she flew to a photography internship in Texas. So even if you're busy, rock them asleep.
If your child dumps a bag of flour out and proceeds to play with it and get it every where, including their hair, do NOT use water to clean it up. Instead, first take a picture because some day you'll laugh, and second pull out your hand vacuum to vacuum it all up — including the hair.
We live in the Instagram, photo-taking, video-loving world, and while that's awesome and a beautiful way to document life, there is something to be said for the times when there is no camera and no distractions.
That morning at the airport with Hannah? I accidentally left my phone in the car. I wanted to Instagram a pic of her plane and more. Then I realized that instead of having that moment with all those pictures, it was something that I would get to remember and retell. Sometimes, just put the camera away and live life without it.
Last night? We had gluten-free pancakes and sausages. Not only is it an excellent option, but it is a you're-the-best-mom-ever type option. A total win-win in my opinion.
Our kids need to see our tears sometimes. There have been times when I've cried over Samuel's Celiac Disease struggles and my own frustration trying to make Christmas cookies gluten-free. Life is about ups and downs and joys and trials. Don't hide it all the time.
Do you laugh? Laughter is truly the best medicine. Nothing seems to bring more joy to my kids then when I start laughing along with them — that real, joy-filled laugh. I know life is hard, and often in the midst of the everyday, the joy, the laughter, can dissipate. Find it again. Watch a funny movie. Play a game. Find your laughter.
As your kids get older this gets more and more and more challenging. The schedules fill up, time is tight, and pretty soon the dinner around the table is lost. Work on reclaiming the time around the table. This is a time where you solidify and celebrate family. Make it a goal to have a certain number of family dinners each week.
Have you ever had it where the noise gets louder and louder and louder? Matching the volume will only increase the volume. Instead, start to whisper your responses and watch the volume drop. It's easy in our home for the volume to get loud simply because there are so many competing voices. This is why I resort to whispering. Often.
Moms, take time for yourself in the midst of the busy motherhood days. Paint, write, run, scrapbook, garden, attend a book club. Do something that brings you joy. My gardening? It's a go-to on those stressful days (in the summer). It's good to have ways to express yourself and to allow yourself to think.
Make it a priority in your day to be thankful for the good things. Maybe on some days it's that you simply made it to the end of the day or that you got one load of laundry done or for the hug from your teen. Give thanks. Remember. Their is hope found in a posture of gratitude.
Long ago, I learned to not fret the spills that happen throughout the day. Instead, I joke that I have the cleanest kitchen floor ever because I am constantly wiping and cleaning up spills. Don't fret over them. Wipe them up and rejoice because now that portion of your floor is now clean.
Run out in the backyard playing soccer. Build a sandcastle in the sand box. Go fishing with them. Watch the movie that they love. Listen to them as they tell you about their day. Be involved as much as you can. Let them know that you value them and what they do and what their interests may be.
Moms, often we're wrong. There is true power and humbleness in admitting to our kids that we were wrong or that we didn't listen. If you make a mistake, admit it. Ask for forgiveness and then move forward. Our kids need to know that we're real and that we value them.
Is it easier for me to make the peanut butter sandwich? Yep. But, in the long run, it's better if I teach them how to make a sandwich. We cannot do everything for them. Teach them. Take time. Invest in letting them learn (and expect a mess), and they will gain skills as adults.
This is just like the rocking one. Take time to walk into your kids rooms at night and say prayers with them and tuck them in. This will end someday. And then you will look back wishing for just one more night to say goodnight to them. I've got older kids, teens, and I still try to walk to their rooms and to tell them goodnight and that I love them. Cherish this time.
Don't wish away today thinking about how great it will be when they are this age or when you have more free time. I know how hard motherhood days are and how draining they can be. But, dear friends, the toddler will only be 2 once, and the 8-year-old with his funny knock-knock jokes will only belly laugh at them for one summer, and the teenager who just wants to get coffee with you will soon be grown. Cherish right now. Breathe deep.
In our family, we decorate the home the night before birthdays. We put the number of streamers that matches the age of the birthday child hanging from their door. We cut the bottom ring off of the Christmas tree, date it and save it. We take a picture outside of the cabin up at the lake every year. We have strawberry shortcake for dinner in the summer. These are traditions and these are the things my kids will remember. Start some traditions for your family.
They won't be perfect — and that's OK. You will cherish the silly funny crazy pictures that you get. So on the times when you have the camera out, take the picture. And share it. Proudly. That's real.