Thursday, July 25, 2013

8 Things To Do For Your Kids Today

"I'm up!" he shouts, so close I think my eardrum just ruptured.  This four year old, who wears a size 6 in clothes and sports that tough, gravelly older boy voice, grabs the bat right out of my hands.  He cranks it at the wiffle ball that Ben tosses and it sails overhead before dropping into one of the weed-inhabited raised beds.  "Yes!!"  Off he prances in a victory dance.

It's morning.  We've driven Daddy to work, dropped the girls off at VBS and are home again.  The baby naps and the banana bread bakes.  The television is broken, a blessing in disguise, and these boys of mine are quite sure there is absolutely nothing to do.  It's not until this Mama heads out the door with a plastic bat over her shoulder that they perk up a bit and follow.  Mama, with a baseball bat?  This is something my guys have just gotta see.

It's later on in the day, when Jonah and I are sitting in a sunspot on the back porch, nibbling banana bread and watching clouds, that he wraps one muscular, sun tanned boy arm around my shoulders and whispers in my ear: "You're the best Mom."  I know I'm not, but I'm still struck that I really can make all the difference in a day here.  What I do speaks to my kids.  It tells a story, not just about me, but about life, God, them.  It can be so easy to forget that, while attending the basic needs of children is necessary, it is by definition basic.  The bare minimum.  Watching and caring for kids is not necessarily raising them.  And whether you stay at home or head off to work each day, all of us have to choose to go that extra mile - to go beyond basics and really raise these kids.  

He burrows his little burr-head right up under my chin and slips onto my lap, his dirty feet dangling about my ankles.  A contented little sigh before he asks, "Hey, Mom?  Are ya gonna finish that banana bread?"  Of course I was more than happy to hand the last little bit off, and in the silence that followed, punctuated by him licking the crumbs right off those little boy paws, I took a moment to reflect.  There are things I should be doing for my kids every day, and while they make all the difference - they don't cost a thing.

1) Touch them.  It's easy to love on little babies, who so depend on us to tote them here and there, lift them, carry them, rock them.  But as these kids grow up and away, they still need that physical reminder of love.  It shows not only love, but attention and solidarity.  Kids still need this, every day, to thrive.

2) Look them in the eye.  I am as guilty as the next Mama of the "Uh huh" while my eyes are glued to something, anything, other than my kids face.  It is fine to make a child wait for your attention, but when it is their turn, make sure they really get it.  Full on in the face.  "Ok, now what was it you needed honey?"

3) Pick your battles.  I'm reminded of this one every time we have a newly minted toddler in the house.  Choosing only to say "no" about things when I really mean it means that I am much more likely to back myself up - and be consistent.

4) Surprise them.  I get a ridiculous amount of enjoyment over surprising my kids with something special.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, their excitement is so incredibly awesome, I wish I could do it more.

5) Give them responsibilities.  The older my kids get, the more responsibilities we give them.  In turn, the more freedom they enjoy.  Giving kids the opportunity to shine is so good for them, and so important for their development.  Giving them opportunity to fail is just as important, showing them how to brush themselves off, deal with disappointment, and move forward.

6) Model, Model, Model.  I think about this a lot lately, how the leadership sets the tone for the rest of the crew.  And, whether or not I feel like being the leader around here, I am.  And they are watching me, taking cues from me, modeling their own behavior after me.  So when I'm sarcastic, they are, too.  when I'm warm and happy, so are they.  When I'm grumpy, well, you can guess what a house full of grumpy people looks like!

7) Ask them questions and really listen when they answer.  I've been doing this more and more with my bigger kids on a variety of topics.  I like to do this during car rides because my actual visual focus is elsewhere and we can just talk, no pressure.  Sometimes I get worried about the world out there, and wonder what my kids know, or what they think.  I've decided to just ask - and go from there.  I've been surprised and blessed by how willing they are to open up - and how wonderful the conversations we have had when I just decide to broach a topic.

8) Play.  Having a whole slew of kids means that they don't really need me for a playmate.  There is always someone game for a hand of "Go, Fish," someone available to ride bikes with.  And while I don't think it is necessary to inject myself into all of their games, it can be helpful sometimes to get them started when everything has turned stale.  After I hit a few balls, I handed the bat off to a little brother - and the game of baseball continued on long after I went back inside.  Sometimes a nudge is all it takes - and the fact that you started all the fun will stick with them.

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  1. Thanks for this totally true reminder, you can not simply watch your children, you need to really be present to them, discipline them, and connect with them. Just being nice to them and providing for them isn't enough.

  2. #6; needed this reminder; right between the eyes - received! You've solved the glaringly obvious question of why everyone around here has been whining so much lately...gulp. ;) Thank you for this - every post of yours is a deep breath in my days and I cherish it.

  3. Absolutely.Thank you so much for the visit the other day! I love our talks!

  4. Oh sweet friend - thank you for the encouragement!


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