So, after a morning at the playground reflecting on what I wrote earlier, I feel I must clarify something. I think I may have made mothering small children sound too simplistic; really, it’s not. I’d use the old “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” analogy, but that only captures part of it. Perhaps a more accurate description would be that it is more mental than physical, more emotional than concrete.
Following are just a few ways my children and I expend some of that mental energy together each day:
Small children constantly desire to learn. They ask about 4675 questions a day (rough estimate). And they like to talk. And talk. And talk. Conversing with someone under the age of five for a few minutes, let alone All Day Long, can become quite draining, and requires a great deal of patience and empathy. Everything is new to them, so nothing seems boring and no activity is wasted time. Sometimes this is difficult to bear in mind when a 10-minute walk to the grocery store takes 37 minutes because there are rocks! On the trail! Thousands! Let’s look at every single one of them!
I try to speak to my children the way I would speak to anyone else . . . and believe me, it’s tempting to slip into being condescending or gloss over things when you are around little tykes all day. Granted, sometimes you need to simplify, but in general I like to communicate with them the way I hope they will then in turn communicate with others. I try not to yell or raise my voice with them (unless I Really Mean Business) . . . although I’ll admit I do flip out occasionally after a particularly tasking afternoon. I use respectful language with them and lots of please and thank you and you’re welcome . . . and I don’t get upset or threaten them if they don’t automatically use them in return. (One of my big parenting pet peeves is when parents say “What’s the magic word?” to get a kid to say please or thanks . . . seriously; just make it a part of normal conversation and before you know it you will be hearing it back 90% of the time, unprompted.)
Because I have the luxury of spending so much time with my babies, and witnessing so much of their day-to-day lives, I have the opportunity to take full advantage of their natural curiosity. We can spend our days learning about why it’s important to recycle, spelling every item in the house, or studying Italian. Fun, yet it can be exhausting as well.
So maybe none of this is earth shattering, nor is it anything unique to stay-at-home parents. These are just some examples of how I spend my hours, days, and weeks with my little ones, especially when it seems like we survived yet another day with “nothing to show for it.”