Editor's note: This article was originally published on Shawni Pothier's blog, 71 Toes. It has been republished here with permission.
I need to face it. My kids are going to grow up. And that's already happening way faster than I feel OK about. I guess that's why I latch on with all my heart to ideas I hear or come up with that will help me cherish the moment while they're young. Some of them I'm good at. Some of them I want desperately to be good at. But for what it's worth, they're ideas that have struck me as a mother as things that would help me soak in my "babies" for as long as they'll let me.
1. Movie night
Our friends, the Farnsworths, introduced us to this one. Dave and I try our best to schedule our dates and other social stuff on Saturday so we can be home with the kids on Friday because Friday night is sacred. Friday night is "Movie Night." We pop popcorn, always make chocolate chip cookies, and watch a movie. Sometimes it's an amazing movie we're all spellbound by, sometimes it turns out to be a dumb show we thought we'd try, sometimes it's one Dave picked up in China with annoying subtitles covering part of the screen, but none of that really matters so much. What matters is that we're together. And we all LOVE it. Inevitably, there will be a time in the future when our kids won't think it's so cool to stay home with their parents on a Friday night to watch a movie, but for now, we're superstars to them and we're eating it up while we can!
This is something I'm not good at, but I sure want to be. My Dad started this tradition when we were little. He'd corner us (usually in the bathroom since that was the most quiet place he could find with nine kids running around) and have a little interview with us once a week. He'd ask all kinds of questions. He'd help us figure out our goals. When we were really little he'd write the initial of our best talents on each of our 10 fingertips (I was "good" at art so he'd write a little "a" for art with a ballpoint pen on my thumb, then move on to my next "talent" that he'd add to my index finger). He'd make us feel so great about ourselves. He'd ask what he could help with. And the amazing thing was that when we grew up and moved away he'd still call us for our interviews. Since I was the second girl, the second Sunday was always mine. He'd call and just give me my traditional "interview" over the phone.
This is a tough thing to carry on with my kids because I'm not anywhere near as organized or as amazing as my dad. But I do enjoy writing occasional letters on my kids' fingertips and I have cornered them for an "interview" on occasion. This year I've decided to try to do interviews on our monthly lunch dates, which is the next idea ...
3. Lunch dates
I know there will be a time I'll need to take school time more seriously. Soon they will be in junior high, then filling out college applications before I know it. But this is elementary school for crying out loud. Shhh, this is a secret. I let my kids miss some of it sometimes. I take them out to long lunches one by one once a month. It's the only time I could figure out to have more one-on-one time together. Yes, Lucy and Claire tag along, and yes, sometimes they're enough to upset the good people who thought Wendy's would be a nice quiet break from their work day and don't want to be hampered by two kids throwing French fries around in the air. But that child I took out of school still knows that it's their special day, and their eyes sparkle with the excitement of getting to order whatever they want and having me just concentrate on them. I love that Max still begs for it to be "his" day.
This year I'm trying to have a little "interview" with each child while we're at lunch (amidst the chicken nuggets and fighting over who gets the last bites of the McFlurry ... yes, sadly it's usually Wendy's or McDonalds with an occasional Jack in the Box thrown in there, but it's their choice and I have to live with it). I go through what my parents call the "5 Facets" with them. How are they doing 1) spiritually, 2) physically, 3)mentally, 4)emotionally, and 5)socially. We make monthly goals of how they can do better in each of these categories. And then ideally I schedule these things in on my calendar so I can help them (not so good at that yet). But I love connecting with them. I love telling them I love them over our "gourmet" food.
4. Mother's Day letters
Being the fanatic about record keeping that I am, I love to write letters to my kids. I want them to have a record of how much I adore every little thing they do. When Max and Elle were little I was great at it and I'd write to them all the time. But then it got harder and harder to set aside time to do it. So a few years ago I decided I'd ask for a couple hours alone in my room each Mother's Day so I could write a special love note to each of my kids. I love knowing that I have those compiled for them. I want them to forever remember how much I love them at every stage and what I've noticed about them each year.
5. "Happies" & "Sads"
Another one of my parent's great ideas (I'm a little bit biased but I think they are amazing. They do have a great website here. Each night at dinner the kids tell us what their "happies" and "sads" were from the day. Claire's are inevitably that she was happy a friend could come over and she was sad when that said friend had to leave. But most of the time it leads to good discussions and helps the kids tell us what really happened during the day instead of just saying it was "fine" or "good"... or "bad." I like to hear the details and this is a good way to squeeze them out.
6. Late nights
We were really good at this last year but not so hot at it this year ... I think this is something that works better when your kids all go to bed around the same time, and our kids are more staggered at bedtime as they are getting older. But I love it anyway so I'm including it. "Late Nights" are when the kids get to rotate each getting a turn once a week to stay up 10 or 15 minutes later than the others. They eat this up. It's such a short amount of time, but they think it's the luckiest thing ever when it's their turn and we love to give them some undivided one-on-one attention.
7. "Clean 10"
This really doesn't have much to do with cherishing the moment with kids, but it sure makes things less chaotic when it happens and then you can cherish the good stuff, and "be still" more often. I have no idea where I heard this but I love it. Whenever things get really cluttery ... Saturday afternoons, between when the kids get home from school and dinner, Sunday afternoons, etc. (OK, pretty much a few times a day) we just say "clean 10" and the kids have to each pick up and put away 10 things. I LOVE it because they just know to do that. Not only does it help to get the house clean quick but it helps the kids know where everything really goes so they can be better at putting things away in the first place.
So these are a few things from my motherhood idea "collection" so far. I'd love to hear any other great ideas.