As I scrolled through my news feed this morning, I couldn’t help but grin at all the smiling faces on their way to a new year of academic, social and emotional development.
It hit me, once again, how quickly the years are passing. In our own family my oldest has turned 28, my youngest is in her last year of elementary school, I have two kids who are each heading into their senior years of high school and college, and a son at the center of middle school.
When my children were little I experienced a lot of sleep deprivation and there were many days I thought would never end. That seems so long ago now. Somewhere along the line they gained better sleep habits, got involved in activities that interested them, began tying their own shoes and making their own lunches.
And while my job as a mom is far from over, it is overall more restful than when I started this gig.
While I am confessing, I’ll admit when my kids were so much more physically and mentally demanding of my time I didn’t have the patience or energy to really get to know who they were. Daily life was a series of diapers, naps, meal prep, clean up, shuffling from one thing to the next followed by exhaustion. Rise early, repeat.
At best it was organized chaos. Knowing I cannot go back (nor would I want to), I can however choose to take this day and decide to spend some time building healthier relationships and more open communication with the kiddos who remain under our roof.
Here is an example. Yesterday (the last day of summer vacation) I slept in (a rare treat I gave to myself). Upon awakening I asked my 10 and 12 year olds to walk to the doughnut shop with me. After 15 minutes of resistance (during which I kept my cool), we embarked on a 20 minute walk to get our favorite morning sweets. During our journey to and from breakfast I chose to give them the floor (or the cement, as it was) to bring up whatever conversation they wanted.
Initially silent (because I had pulled them away from their favorite pastime), with each passing step they slowly began to open up. The topics ranged from current favorite YouTube videos and Xbox games (not surprising), to how hard it is to see other kids’ parents bail them out of unhappy or uncomfortable situations and the long term affect it is likely to have on their classmates.
In between those topics, my kids and I talked about which summer camps they got the most out of and what they might like to do next year and the highlights of our annual family trip to Wisconsin. We chatted about how our pool not getting done this summer had allowed us to see some friends and have some interaction which wouldn’t have otherwise taken place without our needing to cool off at the community pool down the street.
It’s easy to let our kids get sucked into electronics use, after all that allows us to do what we want to do without interruption. But this practice also breeds disconnection in a world which desperately needs more compassion and personal connection.
So as fall begins, here’s to hoping the cooler weather will bring you out of your daily routine and onto the walking paths of our communities for interesting conversations with your own family and friends!
Kimberly Muench is a Flower Mound mother of five and author of “My Mothers Footprints: A story of Faith, Calm, Courage, Patience and Grace.” To see more of her work or to contact her, visit www.mymothersfootprints.com.