The other day I found myself literally googling "How to connect with 10 year old son." You see, we're in a transition here at my house. My son is in the 4th grade and I feel like he is transitioning into bigger kid stuff. You know like on the brink of tween. I honestly can't even believe that we are approaching the teenager stage in a couple years. It blows my mind and I'm simply not ready for that.
As he gets older, the things he used to enjoy doing with me just don't do it for him anymore. Playing Wonder Pets and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse together are so not cool now. So, I find myself scrambling to think of ways to make him feel heard, connected, loved and quite honestly, I feel like I fail him. I've went from him crying when I leave to him not caring how much I'm gone. I'm just mom. Even though I know he loves me, he's at the point where mom's not cool enough to be seen with in the cafeteria. So, no kisses for when I drop off his lunches! How did I even get here?
I've come to realize over the past 6 months that if we as parents don't put on emphasis on family quality time, and make our children realize that we really do care, then we will slowly lose connection over time. Now, I'm not talking about them not loving us anymore. I'm talking about them coming to us as teenagers no matter what time it is and wanting to talk or get advice. Or as adults, calling us just because they want to see what we're doing. I want that long lasting close connection no matter how old they get. With the way the world is going now a days, instilling family values in them is so important. It's those things that we will pass on to them for them to implement in their adult lives. That's a lot of weight on our shoulders as mother and fathers. We shape their life long habits.
I was listening to Kat Kerr recently on YouTube and she was saying that when we get to Heaven, God is going to ask us how we treated our family and what did we do for them? That made me take a step back and truly think about that. If I was standing in front of God himself surrounded by splendor and majesty and He asked me, "My Beloved, how did you treat your family? Besides being in awe and taking everything in, I think I would say that I did everything that I could possibly do for them. That I sacrificed my own desires to make sure they had everything that they needed or wanted. I then could see Him saying, "Teryn, you needed to make sure that YOU had everything you needed and you matter too." How can we take care of others when we aren't even fully taking care of ourselves? God needs us to be and feel our best so that we can give our best. Plain and simple.
Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think of the past, present and future. I think of when my first born learned to crawl, then walk, run, ride a tricycle then ride a bike. I can see it now, slowly I'll watch him ride his bike down the street as I'm smiling and staring at the back of his helmet only for it to turn into watching the back of his car drive away. The time between bicycle and vehicle aren't far apart. What we do in that between stage shapes their future.
After listening to my almost 10 year old make comments around the house, I've come up with a list of 10 realistic ways to be a better mom. I'm not talking about a being a Pinterest perfect mom because all of that is materialistic. I'm talking about giving our kids the best of us. The real us. Stripping away technology and just giving them the one on one attention they crave and not the kind where everyone is staring at a backlit screen.
1. Put down the phone.
Whether you know or not, they definitely take notice of how much time you devote to staring at a device that doesn't realistically give you anything in return. My son has made comments before as I'm posting on Instagram or Facebook... Man, you're always on your phone!" Mental note to self, don't stare at the phone while sitting next to them because it makes them feel like you want to give your attention to the phone more than them.
2. Step away from the computer or other devices
Same as above. TV, computers, Ipads. When we devote more time to screens the kids start to feel like they matter more than them.
How was your day? Who did you play with at recess? How are you feeling? How was lunch? Is there anything you want to talk about? Was anyone mean at school today? By asking them questions, you initiate the conversation and they will feel comfortable enough to tell you how they are really feeling.
Do a little devotion every morning or night. I recommend the (affiliate link) Kids Jesus Calling. It's written in a way that they will understand. So good! This is one habit that is very important to instill in them now. Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
5.Prayer at bedtime
Another great habit to form. Praying for your kids, in my opinion is one of the most important, if not THE most important thing you can ever do for you children. When we pray with the kids it shows them that we have a relationship with God and that we place an importance on it. When things get tough they will always resort to prayer because they saw Mom do it all of their life.
6. Read to them
What child doesn't love a great story? Especially when Mom does silly voices for each character. Not only does it help develop their brains and reading skill, it also helps develop a genuine relationship and memories of those silly voices and stories to last a lifetime.
7. Play their imaginary games
Get on the floor with them, chase them, dress up with them. One of my youngest daughter's favorite games to play with me is "Trick or Treat." In all honesty, I made up this game on a whim to keep her occupied and it quickly became the most asked for thing to do. Trick or Treat is where I close my eyes sitting on the couch and she approaches me while saying Trick or Treat with her bag or bucket. She then doesn't know how long it will take me to quickly open my eyes and jump up taking her by surprise and I throw random things in her bucket like bobby pins, socks, lego pieces or whatever is laying around. Then she walks to the other side of the living room while I sit back down and close my eyes and she never knows what random thing I will put in her bucket. This game gets her laughing so hard that she doesn't even make noise! As for my other two, they are always creating made up scenarios like they are in the Wild Kratts Tortuga. Those are the things they will remember.
8. Listen to them
One things I am learning is that if I do not listen to the small things and stories when they are young, they won't tell me the big stuff when they are older. We must place importance on even the silliest of things because they are big things to them now. If we place importance on the teddy bear losing his eye or the story about how their BFF&E lost their shoe it will show them that we are always there to listen no matter what.
9. Jump in on the video game action
Now a days it seems as if a lot of parents shoo the children off into the other rooms to play video games so that they stay out of the way. Heck, they don't even make messes while doing that so I get it! Instead of letting them stay in the other room by themselves, jump in the game! Battle it out! See if you can beat them and win some cool points. They might be shocked at how good mom can rock a MarioKart Race. You can also go the library and check out games or rent one at Redbox.
10. Be active with them, not just watch them
This is one area that I need to work on more. Play that fun silly game in the backyard with them. Run around, play soccer, throw the ball to them instead of just watching them through the window while you clean. One thing my son and I love to do is wrestle. Not going to lie, he can just about take me down! They won't care about how clean the house is, they will care about the quality time you are spending with them while being active.
11. Look them in the eyes
Looking a child in the eyes while talking, explaining or disciplining them makes a huge impact. Get on their eye level even if that means bending down. It will show that you care enough to connect with them and that whatever you are saying is important. Also, aren't their little eyes the sweetest? They are the windows into their little souls that are packed with innocence and love.
12. Hug and say I love you every day
This is extra huge even though I feel like all 12 of these are. I know and have heard of people that their parents never told them that they loved them all of their lives. It was few and far between those moments when they expressed their love. Children need to feel loved and one of the ways is by verbally saying it. Also, telling them that you are proud of them is huge too! I can't stress enough how big of an impact you can make in your child's life by telling them that you love them everyday while giving them a big hug. I like to call mine "Momma's morning hugs." My son gets embarrassed but I know deep down he looks forward to them. My kids WILL know that I love them with every part of me and the love that I show them will fully be felt when they have kids of their own.
Even though I wish my children never had to become adults and face the world and what will come their way, I realize that it is going to happen and I can't do anything about slowing down time. As mother's we are always rushing to get to the next milestone. Hurry up and get past the terrible two's, then hurry up and get through the threenager stage. It's always hurry, hurry, hurry. We dream of having the house to ourselves while they are little but on the other end there are empty nesters saying NO, please take my advice. Try to slow down. Spend as much time as you can with them because one day it will be too late. Their bicycles will turn into vehicles and they will be off to their own life on their own path.