March 14th 2012 | 1 Comment
Children require so much attention. From the moment they’re born, they’re completely dependent on us – their parents – for everything. Sometimes, we give so much attention it feels like we don’t have anything left. This kind of energy drain can really take the joy out of parenting. How can we make it more fun, take care of ourselves and still give the amount of attention our kids need?
First, the better we take care of ourselves, the better we will be at taking care of our children. This is obvious, and so frustrating when it seems like there’s no time or resource to take care of ourselves. But we can start with the little things. Find some exercise that your child will do with you. Bench press the baby, or have the toddler follow you through a few yoga steps. You can make up a story as you go along, stretching yourself while telling your child about the rainbow you’re making with your body. My favorite thing to do is put on a favorite song and lip-sync while dancing outrageously and air-guitaring with my son. I think it’s more fun (and state-shifting) for me than it is for him! Most importantly, find someone you can talk to when you’re feeling upset or pushed to your limits. Even just taking 5 minutes to “vent” about how you can’t stand some phase your child is going through will make that phase easier to tolerate. And, it will often help you feel closer to your friends, more supported, and less isolated, which raises our capacity to experience joy!
Another great way to bring joy into parenting is to play with our kids. Playing can be really hard sometimes as parents! We lead such stressful, hard-working lives, that we forget how much fun playing can really be. Or we get cranky when yet another thing is asked of us – we’ve worked hard all day, and now they want us to play? But if we can just move beyond our frustration and get into a game with our children, step into their world with them for a minute, we will most often find that we are having more fun, and that we are making significant connections with our kids that increase their confidence and boost closeness.
To start right now, notice some of the things that make your children laugh, and repeat them! If you trip or bumble and they think it’s funny, don’t get mad and start lecturing on how it’s not nice to laugh at someone else. Use it as an opportunity to connect. Start to bumble even more, or trip even bigger so they can laugh harder. As you fool around, they’ll learn that making mistakes is okay, can even be FUN! They’ll gain confidence, and you’ll feel closer too.
Or take something you do regularly that feels like a bore, a chore, or plain icky, and make it fun! Turn waiting in line into an opportunity to daydream, or meet people, or tell each other stories. Turn dish washing into a ballet dance, or picking up clothes into a game of “shooting” for the laundry basket. Or even start by throwing the clothes at the laundry basket and missing intentionally. When you miss, start crying about missing, and beg for your child to pick it up. If she doesn’t, or tells you you have to, make an even bigger fuss! “I don’t Waahhhhhnnnnnnaaaaa!” See if your child will boss YOU around a little, and let her have a little fun. When we approach our daily have-to’s with fun, our kids will jump in and come along.