Parenting Unlike a Duck

Whoever said everything changes after you have kids was right! Not only does this saying apply to your priorities, waistline, bank account, and number of brain cells, it also holds true for definitions of some words and phrases.

Take for example the word vacation. B.K. (before kids), going on vacation likely meant moonlit walks on the beach or hours hiking up and down beautiful mountains or visiting historic/artsy museums for days on end. But vacationing A.K. (after kids) takes on a whole new meaningVacationing with kids involves throwing in a pack ‘n play, dozens of diapers and wipes, a boatload of fruit snacks, adhering to nap and meal schedules, and all the other stuff you normally do when you’re at home. So essentially the vacation you planned for months and looked forward to is really life in a different place (but hopefully a scenic place). 😉

Also, think about the phrase sleeping in. When I was in college, sleeping in meant first staying up way past my bedtime the night before and waking up close to lunchtime the day after. Sleeping in A.K. however is a little similar in some ways. You still get to stay up late or be woken up several times during the night by a little person who is teething or feverish or just wants to party, but you’re lucky if you get to sleep till 7AM the next day. These days when I open my eyes in the morning and see any digit after 6, I’m a happy camper. Oh, how life has changed. 🙂

Recently I’ve been pondering another phrase that has been radically redefined since I had kids: running errands. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my own, I can attack 4-5 different stores within the span of 1 hour; the longer my shopping list is, the faster I run. But I’ve learned that running errands A.K. never involves running, unless it’s running to the nearest bathroom after a certain child has downed a bottle of water. Shopping with my munchkins means speed walking and looking back every so often to make sure the kids are still following me.

I was doing this exact activity the other day – “running” errands with E and C at Costco – when a realization hit me.

Image courtesy of EA/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of EA/freedigitalphotos.net

I always thought it was cute to see a mama duck with her ducklings trailing behind her, but now I wonder if that’s how parenting is supposed to work. Of course I’m not a bird (even though I gave birth to a girl who loves them), so I can’t speak for bird parents, but I’m thinking in the context of human parents. Let me explain …

As an adult, I thought patience was one of my stronger suits … until I had children. Then I realized I am anything but patient. I’m forever wanting, hoping, praying that my kids will grow up. That they will learn how to do things on their own. That they won’t have to rely on me to wipe their behinds or feed them or cut their nails. That they will walk faster, have the physical dexterity to keep cups from spilling, and communicate with words instead of kicks.

I realize now that I spend a lot of my days as a parent walking ahead of my kids, like a mama duck, when I should actually be walking beside them.

In the effort of focusing my energy on checking off a to-do list, I’ve forgotten the more important priorities in life, like the people I’m leading. They’re the ones with little hands that need holding, little feet that need to take double the steps to keep up with mine, little eyes that are curious about everything they see, little minds that need compassion and care to face this great, big world.

If I am to lead and mold and love my kids, I need to slow down. Slow down enough to look them in the eyes when they talk. To listen patiently to their many questions and answer them as best as I can. To understand the things that are important to them (even if it’s the name of their favorite Pokemon) and to make those things important to me.

Because being a kid is hard. But we adults have been there and we’re the best ones to help them navigate their way. 🙂

P.S. I had many opportunities to walk beside kids this past week at an academic camp I was helping with. It was a wonderful experience, one that left me with little time to sit in front of a computer (hence the lateness of this post!), but one I will treasure forever.

For some reason the Spice Girls’ song, “Stop” came to mind as I wrote this post. I think the chorus applies well. 😉

Which kids in your life have you had the joy of walking beside?

Monday Mentionables: My Favorite Toys

A friend asked me recently for kids’ toys recommendations, so I thought I’d do a post about my favorite ones. Of course there are a million and one toys out there and I haven’t played with them all, so this may be a bit biased. 

1. Board Games. Board games have been a big hit in our house now that both kids are able to participate. It’s pretty cool to be able to play something all together and have it be entertaining for both the kids and grown-ups (it beats playing Matchbox cars any day!). Our favorites include Chutes and Ladders, Uno Moo and Sequence for Kids. Games are a great way to practice taking turns, strategizing, and most importantly, winning and losing graciously.

Here’s a peek at my hand!

2. Legos. You can never, I repeat, never go wrong with legos. There are big ones (called Mega Bloks) for plump baby fingers, Duplo ones for the preschoolers and teeny weeny ones for the older kids. Even adults like them; my sister and brother in law had a huge Star Wars set listed on their wedding registry, which unfortunately did not get bought – maybe we’ll get it for them for their 10th anniversary. 😉

This bag of Mega Bloks kept both kids entertained for 6 years!

3. Recyclables. They say desperate times call for desperate measures; I say creative times call for recycling measures. There is no better way to save money on toys than to make them yourself out of things you find around the house. There are tons of websites with ideas on how to turn toilet paper rolls or egg cartons into works of art.

C loves chicks!

Now if you ever want to buy already made toys, but would like to leave the toy store in a good mood, check out Once Upon A Child. A new location just opened up near us and we have visited them three times in the last week. The great thing about this store is that you can sell them your gently used toys, baby equipment and clothes and get cash back. And you can either take the cash and run (good luck if you brought the kiddies with you) or use it towards something in the store. All their items are clean, not missing any parts and checked for recalls so they are almost like new. Plus, they are marked way down. We got a 355 piece lego set for $12 (Walmart sells it for $23) and it took us close to two hours to finish one design (2 more to go), so we got our money’s worth!

Alrighty, now onto tackling another painting project this week – the upstairs bathroom. I’ve got this tune, “Stop” by the Spice Girls to help me get going today (it’s been playing in my head ever since last night’s Girls’ Night Out which involved microphones and colored lights, haha!).

Happy Monday everyone!