The other week we went to visit my family up in Wales, something we only get to do a couple of time a year due to the distance and long car rides with two small children are never fun.
Whilst there it’s a great break for me and the husband. The family are happy to see the boys, the boys are happy to see the family! They can entertain Gray (He’s in a demanding phase) while we can chill on the side-lines, and get a ‘parenting break’ to recharge our batteries.
While it was nice to go hands-off on the parenting for a week, this isn’t a luxury we have often, and it reminded me of something that had bothered me recently.
Now that Gray is old enough to know his own mind he has started speaking it too, particularly when he feels he is not getting enough attention. He will in those moments come straight up to you and demand ‘PLAY WITH ME!’
I don’t want to raise a spoilt child so he understands full well he can’t always have his way, sometimes he simply has to be patient or entertain himself, while I feed his baby brother or cook us dinner. But then I had a day not long before going to Wales that was pretty… jarring.
Due to a bad night’s sleep I was already cranky starting out; I had a full day of tasks ahead and my husband was at work that day, leaving me to deal alone until dinner time.
We didn’t have anywhere to go so it was a stay at home day while cooking, laundry and tidying got caught up. Unfortunately, being tired and cranky I failed to implement my own advice that day, to try to include a little fun using the tricks in my post here.
In the morning Gray asked me to play but I was feeding the baby and had yet to eat myself, so I said ‘later’. Mid-morning, he asked again but I had to put out laundry, so again I said ‘later’. Lunchtime he asked again, but yup, I was making lunch so again I said ‘later’. The day continued this way until finally he asked one last time and I said ‘We can’t, it’s bedtime’.
Now I know what some will say; Yes, I had (for the most part) entirely legitimate excuses. Kids should be able to entertain themselves and learn to play independently. Others will say I should have dropped everything to play no matter what but the truth is, some days we just aren’t perfect and we prioritise the wrong things. This is a very human flaw.
However, what was I doing between these tasks? I was sitting on my phone or tablet because ‘I had earned a break’.
Now I firmly believe parents deserve some ‘me’ time and should be able to sit down for 5 mins in peace. However, that day each time I had a break Gray had been playing nicely by himself. Looking back on the day later that evening I realised when he had engaged me for attention I had said no every. Single. Time.
I felt like the biggest failure in the world.
So what if the house was cleaner or more organised now? My baby boy had just spent an entire day playing alone, being rejected and probably feeling completely unwanted and unloved. Even if it hadn’t been as bad as I was imagining, I had never felt like such a failure as a parent.
I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who’s had a day like that and I bet I’m also not the only one who felt even worse by wondering; just how on earth am I supposed to make it right if I couldn’t even recognise it as it was happening?
We all have bad days as parents. For every bad day there are a dozen good days, and a couple of excellent days also! It’s just that these bad ones stick out more, because as a good parent, you don’t want them to happen at all.
So here’s my advice from personal experience:
Whether you’re having a stay-at-home day or have things to go out and do, whether you’re feeling great or feeling exhausted, there is one sure fire way to avoid one of these bad days. This method will also help you recognise how our days revolve around electronics far more than most realise!
When you get up in the morning, leave your phone on your bedside table. That’s it! Unless you are expecting a specific call, just leave it behind. Turn off your ipad/tablet/laptop and put them away. Allow yourself a couple of checks for missed calls during the day, but no more than once an hour, and for no longer than five minutes.
When I did this, I found myself feeling happier throughout the day because it was clear Gray was happier. He asked me to play with him and if I had to do a task, I’d say ‘after this task’ rather than the ambiguous ‘later’. Then I actually played. Half the time I just had to sit there while he explained the game he was playing to me, he just wanted me to be present and listen to him.
You are all they want.
Doing this trick every now and then doesn’t just make your kids happy, it can help you unwind, let go of stress or pressure you’ve been subconsciously putting on yourself and see things with a refreshed perspective. This is because you’re detaching yourself from the ‘bigger picture’, removing yourself from your worries about work or family or finance or whatever, because nine times out of ten, if you’re not online or on social media, you won’t be reminded of them.
It also helps you recognise the moments you are missing.
This is a massively helpful thing in my experience. I may not get it right every day, I may still say ‘later’ when I’m tired sometimes, but the more days I detach myself from my devices and focus on what is actually in front of me, the more I am reminded of what is really important.
Why not come back after you’ve given it a go and comment about how your day went? We parents need to stick together, there is so much tearing down and judging going on all around, lets boost each other up this time, eh?