I’ve hit a nostalgic patch, and I find myself hunting through pictures when my children were small. My youngest is now 8, and my eldest is 14. Gone, gone are the weary long days of nappy changing, feeding round the clock, and cleaning up pee from the floor.
As I look back, there are certain simple things I did with my children, almost not worth mentioning, that I now look back on and feel grateful I invested in these ways.
1. Everyday Chores
For example, grocery shopping. Shopping with children isn’t always positive and easy. I remember a time when I was shopping with 3 young kids, and one of them, recently toilet trained, had to suddenly use the ammenities. They, of course, couldn’t wait even a moment, so I grabbed everyone, left the trolley where it was and ran out of the store to find a toilet. However, when I look back at those times — talking about the colours of vegetables and the different type of fruit, walking down the aisles and interacting with the bub in the baby seat — I see so much value. Other often mundane chores I look back on fondly are chatting to my baby while hanging out the washing and feeding dinner prep scraps to my toddler in the high chair. Doing normal everyday things together with your kids is worthwhile.
2. Stare at them
A friend of mine used to jokingly call babies “Time Wasters” because you could just sit and stare at them for hours. Especially when my children were in the newborn phase, I would sit and drink in their form with my eyes for I don’t know how long. The way light breaths lifted their little chest. The sounds of satisfaction as I nursed them. The tiny fingers wrapped around my pinky. Kissing the fragrant cheek softly. I still gaze at my children in quite moments, but it’s not the same as holding a small sleeping babe in your arms, so new and trusting. Oh, I miss those moments. The washing can wait.
3. Talk, Talk, Talk / Read, Read, Read
“We are going to the park today.”
“Look at the beautiful blue sky!”
“Dad will be home soon.”
Even when my children were babes (and couldn’t talk with words), I used to talk to them. Talk, talk, talk. Include them verbally as much as possible. When they were toddlers, I used to affirm sentences, taking the opportunity to fill them out.
“Wow! Yes! I can see that yellow duck!”
“What a big red truck!”
And read. Read to them when they are babies. Read to them when they are toddlers. Read to them when they are kids. Read signs. Read junk mail descriptions. Read stories.
4. Get down on their level
I remember especially doing this with my fourth child when he was a toddler (because by then, I deeply recognised how important it was). When he used to ask me a question or talk to me, I often would crouch down and look him in the eyes. I got into such a habit of getting down in those days, and it really helped me to see the world in a different way.
5. Go for walks
I have a strong memory when I first became a mother and I was tired, a little lonely, and weary of the mundane, and I discovered a love for walking with my baby in the stroller. I look back, and see how good those moments were.
It’s interesting that out of all the things I remember 14 yeas later, it’s the everyday, slow-down moments that I hold as deeply valuable. It’s not the swimming lessons, epic 1st birthday parties or playgroup seasons that come back to me with such sweetness.
While I was immersed in those early days, these simple things didn’t seem as important and foundational as they do to me now. So if you’re in that haze right now, and you’re looking after little ones, and staring, and talking, and reading, and crouching, and walking, just know in a decade, you will look back and those moments will stand out with all their beauty, and value, and sweetness.