In our desire to be the best mother we can be, it is easy to get caught up in the “more” syndrome. More activities, more playdates, more toys, more lessons, more everything. When in reality, this is doing our children more harm than good.
More and more, kids are not given the opportunity to ‘be bored’, to be forced to create their own fun. Increasingly it has become manufactured fun in the form of Summer Camps, Winter Camps, and Spring Camps, enrichment opportunities, tutoring, after school programming, before school programming, sports, clubs and so many others.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so appreciative of the great number of diverse opportunities available to our family, however, a very little goes a long way. It is not our children who have Fear of Missing Out—we have Fear of Missing Out for them!
Our children don’t need another activity.
What studies show 100% of the time is that our children need us. Our kids need to know that they are a priority. Not a priority as in “I am going to drop everything so I can drive you to your friend’s house”, but priority as in what’s important to them is important to us, that they are more important than knocking off a ‘to-do’ list.
Our kids need to know that we accept them.
They MUST know that we accept them just the way they are. Yes, it is our job to guide our children AND it is our job to embrace who they are. All kids have unique qualities and they need to be secure in the knowledge that we accept them no matter what.
Our kids need to feel connected with us.
Really, truly, heart-felt connected. Not in our role as a chauffeur or activity director, but in our role as trusted guide, coach, friend and mentor.
Our kids need a spiritual foundation.
It is inherent for humans to be connected to something larger than ourselves. Whether this is through a specific religion or a more general practice. Our children may choose a different path, but they need us to set the example and leave the subject open for discussion.
Our kids need to be allowed to fail and to reap the consequences.
There is no greater lesson than this, especially when our kids our young and the consequences are minor. It is heartbreaking as a mother to see our children hurting and of course we want to swoop in and rescue them, but we are doing them no favors by doing so. To let our kids fail and then turn around and clean up the mess doesn’t equal half a lesson learned, rather it negates the entire lesson and teaches them something else entirely. A child who grows up in a bubble will be crushed by the real world.
Our children need us to model the life we so desperately wish for them.
Monkey-see, monkey-do. Our kids emulate our actions, not just our words. They look to us when we are faced with difficult decisions, situations and relationships. How are you showing up in your everyday that you are proud for your children to see?
Our kids need us to provide stability.
This doesn’t mean we are not allowed to make mistakes, rather it refers to our ‘State of Affairs’. In particular we need to have a stable home life, inner peace, outer calm, and emotional stability. Our instability in any of these areas only increases the anxiety in children, who already have a difficult time regulating their own instabilities.
I believe our kids need to hear what is in our hearts. Along with frequent hugs, our kind and inspirational words to them produce miracles. I have incorporated the use of many “Good Mother Messages” both in spoken word and in action, when I am with my daughter. The most impactful list that I return to over and over is what Jasmin Lee Cori, the author of The Emotionally Absent Mother calls “Good Mother Messages”:
- I’m glad that you’re here
- I see you.
- You are special to me.
- I respect you.
- I love you.
- Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help.
- I am here for you. I’ll make time for you.
- I’ll keep you safe.
- You can rest in me.
- I enjoy you. You brighten my heart.
Each one of these messages is so powerful in many different ways. The one I demonstrate with my daughter the most has to be “I’m glad that you’re here”.
The one I hold in my heart, but don’t demonstrate nearly enough is “I am here for you. I’ll make time for you.”
As I see it, mothering is all about progress, not perfection.
There is no perfect parenting or parenting plan, it is only what we are presented with in the moment.
I just know I am trying to do the best I can in each moment.