Like many days before it, one day last week I was rushed. We had been stuck inside for a couple days because of endless rain and cold wind, and I was, admittedly, going a little stir crazy being cooped up inside with a teething toddler who wanted to climb on all the things and a to-do list a mile long. That say, like every other day, I was trying to strike a balance between getting things done and being a present parent, engaged in Ainsley and her activities while juggling laundry and freelance work during nap time and answering e-mails while she played on the floor.
In the quiet moments at the end of the day, when I’m giving Ainsley her last sippy of milk and rocking with her in the chair, my body finally slows. My mind rests. I realize that without realizing it, I’ve been “sprinting” through my day jumping from one task to another trying to do it all.
“Slow down!” I hear a voice in my head say. “Find time for what matters.”
Ainsley was having a little toddler meltdown. But this time, on this day, instead of brushing it off or trying to distract her with something new I simply sat down next to her and started watching her play, letting her hand me toy after toy. Her mood instantly mellowed. She become calm and content and played happily with me by her side.
How did I miss the fact that my “fussy toddler” really just wanted my undivided attention and time? All she desired was for me to stop, slow down and sit with her, to see the world through her eyes. The greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of ourselves, when we’re not distracted or multitasking, just present and fully engaged.
When Ainsley wakes up early in the morning or cuts a nap absurdly short or fights bed time and comes to sit with mom and dad on the couch, I tend to get a little agitated. It’s my first response because I’m human and “my time!” has been taken away. But I read somewhere on the internet this week that you can change the conversation. Instead of thinking about those moments as interruptions, think about them as “God appointments” with our children. Special, unexpected moments that we get with them while they may have otherwise been asleep or doing something that didn’t require our attention.
Last night we put Ainsley to bed at her usual 7:30. She feel right to sleep without a peep, but around 8:30 she woke up entirely distraught, which was unusual for her. We gave her milk and put her back down. Still upset. I rocked her and cuddled with her until her breathing slowed before I laid her back down. Still upset.
Finally, around 9, Joe scooped her up and brought her into the living room with us to watch Dancing With the Stars. Ainsley doesn’t watch much, if any, television and is obsessed with music, singing and dancing so it was a very special treat. She clapped her hands after the performers danced and bounced up and down as the music played. She was mesmerized and we had such fun watching her. The night got even better for Ainsley when she got to share a bowl of ice cream with daddy. The look of delight and satisfaction on her face was priceless.
I don’t know what it was last night, but Ainsley needed us. She needed cuddles, time, attention and love. What a joy it is to be able to be the ones that she wants.
So today, slow down, momma. Find the moments in your day to give to your time and attention to your little ones. Love them, cuddle them, play with them. Put your phone down (I’m speaking to myself, too!) and observe the way they process the world around them. What they need most is you.