Savoring Time When You Are Losing Your Mind


There is a lot of cliché advice experienced parents offer to expecting families without thinking. While “sleep when the baby is sleeping” is near the top of the list for unrealistic guidance, the worst is one I have been guilty of saying myself:

“Enjoy this time! It goes away so quickly!”

As I look over at the little bald baby who somehow turned into a ten year-old giant, I must admit that the second part of this statement is true. The first part, though? Eh. Sure, babies are the BEST…when you aren’t waking four times a night to feed them, trying to figure out why they are still crying, or washing the third soiled outfit of the day.

Parenting little ones is difficult, exhausting, and is not something you will, even in hindsight, enjoy every minute.

I saw a post from a mother of a toddler in a local social media group I enjoy. She was lamenting how exhausted she was and listed all the ways she had “failed” her daughter that day. Too much screen time. Easy processed foods. No outside play. Most of us, if we are honest, will admit to days like this. We did not enjoy our time. We were not soaking up every minute. We just wanted the day to end.

So what do we do? Kids DO grow up fast.

If we want to soak up the cute way they mispronounced “Christmas”, the short phase where they wanted to read Curious George seventeen times a day, and the week where they wore their Darth Vader mask everywhere when they were four, how do we do that while not putting pressure on ourselves to take a million pictures, log everything in a journal, and still get work done while not collapsing? I will not claim to be an expert, but I would like to offer two ideas that help me to savor the time with my kids when I feel like I might lose my mind.

Take breaks together.

Early in my pregnancy with my second child, my three year-old and I did not do a lot out of the house. I was exhausted and nauseated. Taking him to the park or cooking lunch together the way we liked was not possible, so you know what we did? We snuggled. I turned on “Mighty Machines” for him to watch on Netflix and boiled macaroni and cheese. We talked about diggers all day and he ate bowl after bowl of his favorite food. That time is now a precious memory for me.

If all you have energy to do is sit, do it with your kids. If you aren’t touched out, this is a great time to snuggle. If you feel like your body has not been left alone all day and need a break, sit in a chair next to them. While my kids don’t know the phrase “love language”, they learned at an early age that “sometimes Mommy needs to feel loved in a different way from being hugged.” Your kids can learn this, too. Find a book, movie, or television show that makes all of you feel warm and fuzzy and enjoy it together. When your kids are bigger, you won’t remember the ways you “failed” that day. You (and they) will remember curling up with a blanket and being together.

If our family needs a re-set to the day, my kids now instinctively ask for “quiet time” and we take turns when deciding who will do the reading aloud. Some of our family’s favorite snuggle time books have been:

The My Bookhouse Anthology – Full of memorable folktales and poetry from all over the world, and loaded with beautiful vintage illustrations. I found our copy at The Rosewater Used Bookstore, and we enjoy something from one of the volumes almost every day.

Little House on the Prairie Series – Not a super-accurate biography of the Ingalls family, but a sweet reminder of the magic of childhood adventures. I have so many memories of my mother reading these to me, and it was special to share that with my children also.

A Bear Called Paddington – Based upon the author’s experience with refugee children that arrived in England on Kindertransport, it was helpful when experiencing scary new things, coping with mistakes, and learning to have grace with each other.

Sometimes, we just are not in a reading mood, and our family turns on Youtube for calm. Here are some options for screen-time that will not make you feel guilty:

The Joy of Painting  If you do not already know the soft-spoken Bob Ross and his talent for wet-on-wet painting, please go find him right now. When my oldest was very small, I turned on this channel in desperation late one night to help calm him while sick. This artist’s voice and mild demeanor can calm anyone immediately, even a sick and grumpy toddler.

Townsends – Originally begun to advertise the clothing and accessories they make for historical reenactment, this living history channel by Indiana company James Townsend and Son includes video of cabin building, reading of historical journals, and our favorite: cooking authentic 18th century recipes. The videos are edited to have a quiet soundscape, and this is a frequent choice for our family wind-down time before evening Bible study.

Buon-A-Pettiti – If you don’t have a nonna to teach you all the secrets to making authentic Italian food, you can adopt Gina! My daughter affectionately calls her “the tomato grandma” after watching the tomato canning video many MANY times. Her accent sounds like music, and she makes creating delicious from-scratch dishes look so easy.

Get in the car.

With the price of gasoline lately, this one may not be as practical. It is, however, very effective. When everyone is safely buckled into their own car seats and you start down the road, sometimes magic happens. When I am pulling out my hair trying to referee the conflicts between my kids, we hop in the car. Sometimes I have a destination in mind: We will drive to Blackacre Nature Preserve to pet the baby goats, take a hike at the Louisville Nature Center, or go walk across Big Four Bridge. Other times we just go in a big circle, because where you go is not what matters.

While you are in the car, there are lots of ways your family might make those special memories. Listening to audiobooks in the car is a great way to share one of your favorite stories without using energy to read aloud yourself. I recommend something funny to keep the kids engaged and allow for conversation afterward. Another option is teaching them one of the silly road trip games that we used to play before kids had devices to keep them occupied on long drives. I am sure there are about a hundred different versions of the license plate game and even the youngest talking passengers can play I Spy! Louisville also is fortunate to have an amazing Classical Radio Station. We often just turn on WUOL and enjoy whatever selections they make. The music can be invigorating or relaxing, and it always inspires my kids to be creative.

These may not be the perfect ideas for your family, but perhaps seeing what works for us may be helpful in allowing you to reframe what “enjoy this time” actually means. Neither you nor your children will remember every detail from childhood, but what will be remembered is how all of you felt together.


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