As I sat next to my almost 21 month old daughter the other morning trying to convince her to pick up the 5 puzzles she had dumped on the floor I realized that I was losing patience quickly. I wanted so badly to pick up all the pieces myself so we could get on with our day. It was so tempting to guide her little hand to put each piece in the rightful spot. But what would she have learned? She would know mommy is always there to help her, but was that the lesson I was trying to teach her? No, I want to raise my daughter to be an independent child who doesn’t depend on me for every answer. Of course I help her when she really needs or it (or when she says “peese” because who can resist that?), but at this moment I needed to be patient. She knew how to put these puzzles pieces back by herself. So I waited. I sat on the floor an extra ten minutes and let her clean up her mess by herself.
She finished all five of those puzzles and put them back on her shelf and got a big hug from mommy. And what did I lose by doing that? Ten minutes of my life. Ten minutes that I got to spend watching my precious baby girl play happily. I will never get those ten minutes back, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend them any other way.
So my focus lately has been to play with my daughter, in the moment. I know she will only be this age for a little bit and I should enjoy it. But it takes patience. It takes the reminder that every minute I spend with my daughter is shaping her into the person she is going to be one day. That is a big responsibility and I’m not going to take it lightly. I’m not going to rush through life because sometimes they just need you right there, sitting beside them, playing with dolls or trucks or puzzles. Or maybe it means taking an extra half hour at bedtime to read 14 books. Whatever that time looks like, it is important to them. It is important for their growing minds. When we choose not to engage we do our children a disservice.
Here are some easy ways to engage:
Put your phone down
Paying attention to your children is so much easier to do when you aren’t distracted by Facebook or Pinterest. So many of us use our phones while we are playing with our kids. Ever wonder why we have a 2 year old addicted to selfies and tablets? I’m so guilty of using my phone when I get bored of playing with my daughter. Did you just hear that??? When I’m bored, chances are if I’m bored, she is pretty bored too so it’s time to find a new activity.
Get on their level
Does she want to do all her puzzles on the floor? Sit on the floor with her. Does he love playing with trains on his train table? Pull up a little chair so you can see what he sees. You will be more engaged with your children if you are seeing the world from their perspective.
Include them in daily activities
Have him hand you the clean utensils from the dishwasher (no knives) or let her water the flowers. Pull up a chair to the kitchen counter so they can stand on it and watch you cook dinner (or a safe toddler kitchen helper like this one). This not only allows you to engage with your child, but also teaches them real life skills.
Go somewhere new
It is easier to focus on your kids when you’re in a new place, exploring new things. As a stay at home mom I try to get out of the house at least once a day. That could be to the grocery store, playground, Chick-fil-A, or the mall. That breaks up our day and lets my daughter explore new environments and make new “friends”.
I am by no means a perfect parent, there are more days then I care to admit where I would have told her to pick up the pieces and scrolled through Facebook while she did it. Unfortunately, our kids see us disengage. Since I’m not paying attention to her, Quinn doesn’t pick up the pieces and I get frustrated because she isn’t obeying me. That whole cycle could have been avoided if I just put down the phone and engage.
So all I’m trying to do is engage with Quinn by choosing to have intentional, distraction-free playtime with her for part of the day. But the days I feel like I can’t, the days that my anxiety is high and patience is low, I have to give myself a little grace and so do you. Treat yourself to a coffee and love on your child.