I read a blog post this week written by a home-schooling mother of 12 children who admits she is still learning how to play with her kids. Parenting children is so multi-faceted, that no one has it all together... NO ONE. We all lack in one area or another... teaching, patience, playfulness, discipline, conversation, spiritual training, consistency, just as soon as we have it together in one area, we are made aware of our deficiency in another. Maybe this is why so many people who stop going to church in their early 20's end up returning to church after they have kids! We all need HELP!
Today we had some kids Timmy's age over for the afternoon to play games and make cookies. There are some days when that would sound like pure torture to me, then there are days like today, when nothing could have pleased me more. The hitch is that, whether I feel like it or not, these are the sorts of things that my son needs to have as part of his life just to help him BE A KID and ENJOY BEING A KID!
It is so easy for me to just expect Timmy to act like an adult. He's outnumbered in our house, after all. But when I really think about it, he has the rest of his life to be an adult and to carry that kind of responsibility around with him, so just like it is up to me to make sure he is ready for adulthood, it is also up to me to make sure he doesn't miss out on a CHILDhood. Here are some of the things that I have found that have helped Timmy find his giggle:
1. Baking/Cooking Together. Not the kind where I am the taskmaster and he is my hopeless assistant, but the kind where I let my high-and-lofty standards down and just enjoy being together and creating something yummy. Today we baked cookies. The measurements were not as precise as I would have liked. Guess what... the cookies still tasted great.
2. Watching Cartoons Together. This is a weekly thing that Tim does with his Dad. They sit down for half an hour to an hour one day a week and catch up on a cartoon that Tim loves. They laugh out loud together and that is a good thing. It isn't the same when he watches it alone.
3. Occasionally Embracing Weird Sounds. There is a reason that stores sell whoopie cushions! Some noises are just plain funny. While making those sounds at the dinner table is discouraged, there are certain times when we just relax enough to admit that armpit flatulence and other weird sounds are not just permitted, they should be embraced...loudly.
4. Say Goofy Things. When you say something (intentionally or not) that strikes a child's funny bone and makes them giggle - give in to it and go with it! Today, Timmy said he was "dumb" while we were baking because he didn't know how to open the salt container. I told him that he wasn't dumb, he was "uninformed." This sparked a 5 minute giggle fest where the kids took turns and acted out the difference between dumb and uninformed.
5. Camp-Outs Are a Must. I am not an outdoorsy girl, but there are things that happen on camp-outs, even the backyard variety, that won't happen anywhere else. You just gotta do it at least once! Preferably more.
6. Getting Dirty is A-Okay. Every kid should have certain clothes and shoes that are designated for getting dirty and it should be 100% okay for them to end up that way. As adults, getting dirty tends to involve work - gardening, cleaning, working on a vehicle, etc. For kids, getting dirty should be fun! Dirt piles, mud puddles, dusty baseball diamonds, grassy hills to roll down, this is where the fun happens.
7. Getting Wet Doesn't Always Require a Swim Suit. If you find yourself at a creek, near sprinklers, somewhere with water guns, etc. with a child, with more than 15minutes to spare - let the kid get wet! Clothes dry, but moments pass all too quickly.
8. Learn About What They Are Interested In. Kids fixate on things... Pokemon, Dinosaurs, Horses, Cars, Paper Airplanes, Jumping Rope, you name it, a kid has fixated on it at some point. Join them in their interest! Show them that if it is important enough to capture their attention then it is important enough to capture yours, even if it is silly and not-very-adult-like.
9. Arrange Times for Them to Be With Friends. Preferably for extended periods of time when possible - sleepovers, summer camp, things like that.
10. Play Board Games Together. If you don't have any, come borrow some from us! Board games involve an extended period of time of sitting around a table or on the living room floor, just being together, face-to-face, with the only goal being to have a good time and laugh with each other.
As I write this, I am reminded of so many children who grew up or are growing up far too quickly because of the bad decisions of those who were supposed to care for them, or because of a tragedy of some sort. Maybe you are one of them. We can't change the past, but we can do simple things today with the kids that God puts into our lives (related to us or not) to make sure that childhood is not lost.
What are your ideas?
Yesterday I spent a few hours in the kitchen with Timothy and his friends, Tyler (8) and Elise (5). We have a round breakfast table in our kitchen and I removed the two rocking chairs that normally sit on either side of it so that the four of us could stand around the table and each person had their own space. I turned on a Veggie Tales Christmas CD, tied too-big aprons on each of them, gave them each a ball of cold sugar cookie dough and some flour to spread on the table, tossed some cookie cutters in the center and then I stood back and watched the magic happen. Smiles, giggles, dance moves, floured faces, patting, rolling, sneaking bites of raw dough, and joyful chatter. It was magic, and I want to do it again.
There were a hundred different pictures I wanted to take during the process, little hands pounding dough and gently picking up their cut out cookies, the way the littlest kiddo looked as I looked down on her smile and long eye lashes from my height, their silly impersonations, frosting being licked off of fingers, it was all golden.
Baking cookies and sweets with my mom was a much loved Christmas tradition at our house. We made several different kinds and then delivered platefuls of goodies to our friends and loved ones the week before Christmas. Here are a list of some of my all time favorite Christmas cookies and sweets in no particular order:
1. Peanut Butter Blossoms (the ones with the Hershey kisses on top)
2. Sugar Cookies
4. English Toffee
5. Chocolate Dipped Pretzels
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!