Between the Instagram pics of kids finger painting on stretched canvas and Pinterest posts of elaborately designed snack plates, a mum can’t help but feel guilty about all of the things she’s not doing with her kids. Sure, I’d love to grow a garden with my toddlers and create sensory tables and make shamrock cookies. The problem is that I just super suck at all of that stuff. I’m one of those people who accidentally kills houseplants (even those hearty cactus ones), who’s too impatient to succeed at proper crafting, and who inevitably looks at what should have been a bird-feeder and goes, “What did I do wrong?”
Then, of course, there are all of the beach days and zoo trips we’re not going on, plus the play spaces we still haven’t checked out. That’s not to say we don’t do fun stuff, because we do. I take my kids to the park or on walks most days of the week. We see friends regularly for playdates. We make pizza and bake cakes. We do go to the beach and the zoo, as well as visit farms and fairs and museums. We just don’t do that kind of creative, exciting stuff all of the time.
I’ll admit that a huge part of it is that I just don’t have the energy to run around with them from sun-up to bedtime. I just don’t. I’m a lazy person by nature, I’m a homebody, and I like to keep things low-key. Filling the day with activities was never my thing, and it’s even less so now that I have kids. Going, going, going is incredibly stressful with toddlers, especially twin toddlers. Battling to get my boys dressed, fed and in the car so we can make it to music class in ten minutes kind of takes the joy out of the pint-size drum circle.
Of course, if it was just me getting overwhelmed, I’d probably suck it up…at least a little bit. Thing is, I can tell that my kids get overstimulated and cranky if we do too much in one day. They get kind of loopy or clingy or more sensitive. It’s like their little brains are going, “Turn it off, Mummy, turn it ooooooo-ff.” Plus, I’m not convinced a pony ride is any cooler to them than patting a giant St. Bernard on the street. With the right level of enthusiasm from me, our everyday errands are suddenly awesome. My kids will literally shout, “Hooray!” and “Goody, goody!” if I tell them there will be stickers at Woolies and that we might stop for frozen yoghurt too. That’s what is so incredible about being a kid–the excitement and discovery and joy in everything, even the little things.
Also, my kids are a lot like me, so I think they like to just chill sometimes. Often, when I get them up from a nap, they’ll ask, “Where my going?” If I tell them we’re going to see a friend or go to a birthday party, they get pretty psyched. They get even more psyched though if I tell them we’re just going to have a snack and watch Peppa Pig. Even if we have a great day out, as soon as we get back, they run to their puzzles and books like long-lost friends. I have to admit, I’m also overjoyed to plop down on the couch–or on the floor with them–and just relax.
That being said, I am sure the kids who go on daily adventures are having an awesome time. It’s what they’re used to and their parents enjoy it, so it’s like a constant party. I don’t want to feel badly though because we spend a good chunk of our time hanging out at home. I don’t think I should feel badly. This is my family and this is what works for us, and I’m not convinced they always need bells and whistles to have fun. When we do go to pick strawberries or pat cows or see the penguins though, I want it to be special for them. I want it to be a treat. I don’t want a train ride or a parade to ever feel routine to them.
Honestly, I know that I’m now a better mum for taking it down a notch. I am. Once I stopped trying to do everything with my kids, I became a much more relaxed parent. Once I let go of the guilt I felt over the things I wasn’t doing, I became a happier person. More important, once I gave myself permission to just do the best I can for my kids, and not more than I can handle, I was able to start enjoying them even more.
It’s the quiet moments when I really connect with my boys, when they snuggle up with me on the couch to read a book, or we draw together with markers and printer paper. Our beach days and zoo days and farm days are still fun, lifelong memories, but I think it’s the in-between moments that really matter the most. I think it’s the in-between moments that they will remember.
Image: Jennifer Benjamin