5 ways to be a more present parent

This past weekend I watched as Adaline took her first steps. My tiny baby girl. She has been on the move since she was just a few months old and we knew she was close to walking. I had said to Dustin I bet by Christmas she would take her first steps but she surprised us on Sunday night when she walked toward me while we were playing in Olivia and Penelope's bedroom. 10 months and 3 days old. 

As a Mom, watching your baby as they reach a milestone or learn something new is so rewarding. My heart was just filled to the brim watching her sweet little legs take steps to me out of nowhere. It got me thinking...what if I had missed it? What if I had been on my phone, my computer or busy trying to get things done around the house? What if I hadn't seen her take those first steps because I was lost in some distraction that wasn't my kids. There is a quote I love that says, "Life becomes more meaningful when you realize the simple fact that you'll never live the same moment twice." I keep that at the forefront of my mind and it helps me to grab hold of each moment with my children and cherish it as it is happening.

We live in an ever-changing, technology-saturated world and while technology has brought about many good things, I also believe technology is one way the Enemy steals from us (John 10:10) -- by taking time and attention away from us being present with our children and telling us the lie that something on our phone / computer / tv / to-do list is more important than they are.

What are the moments you might be missing because you aren't fully present with your child(ren)? What are you prioritizing above them that you maybe shouldn't be? I know that nothing happening on my phone is more imporant than my little girls -- and I want them to know that too. So I thought it would be worthwhile to share 5 ways to be a more present parent, especially this time of year when the busyness of the holidays can pull us away from what truly matters, sometimes without us even noticing it.

one / put your phone down and set the screens aside.

Of course I had to start with this one because I feel like our phones, ipads and computers are where much of our distraction begins. We purposely don't own an ipad because I know it would not only be a distraction for Dustin and I but it would be one for our girls as well. I would rather have them asking to read books in my lap or do art at the table than to play a game or watch a show on an ipad. We try to limit TV and if we are going to have it on, we do a family movie night where we are all together, having popcorn and snuggling on the couch, instead of just turning a show on every time we need to get something done. I think there is a season to reach for the screens (the girls definitely watched more movies than usual after Adaline was born) but be conscious of how often you are picking up your phone, turning on the TV or your computer, and instead just push those things aside when your kids are around. I leave my phone unplugged at night so in the morning I need to charge it. I leave it charging in our kitchen during the day so I can hear it if Dustin is calling but keep it out of my reach when my girls are awake so it isn't a distraction. I want them to see me looking at them when they look at me, not me looking down at my phone.

two / linger a little longer.

Isn't there such a sweet gift in being able to watch your children as they play, learn and interact with their siblings and friends? As parents we get a front row seat to their little world and I don't ever want to miss that! When I drop Olivia off at school, I walk down the hall and stand by a second classroom door and just watch her play; I see what activity she starts with, who she talks to first, what her expressions are. When I drop Penelope and Adaline off at the church or MOPS nursery, I linger for a few minutes and watch as they find things to do and people to be near, observe as they laugh and play. When I am snuggling with my girls at the end of the day in bed, or rocking Adaline and singing, I just slow down and enjoy it. Even if it's been a long day, I try not to rush through it and instead just soak up the cuddles and remind myself how precious each moment with them is. As your children are falling asleep, linger in their room and study their sweet faces. Slow down, linger a little and just be present in the moment. 

three / get on their level.

At the end of a long day (or maybe at the beginning of the day after a long night) it's easy to lay down on the couch and watch your kids play on the floor instead of playing with them. Olivia and Penelope, and even Adaline, will play quietly by themselves and with each other without me intervening at all. Sure, I could get some things done while they entertain themselves, but before I know it, they will be grown and I will be longing to play pretend, have a tea party or throw & catch a ball with my little girls. Those are the moments I just know I will miss. So I do my best to treasure them while they are happening. I get on their level. I sit with them on the floor and play with them, instead of just watching them play. They light up when I join in and the smiles on their faces are 1000x better than vacuuming, folding laundry and meal planning. Yes, all of those things need to be done at some point, but when your children are in front of you, get on their level and make them your #1 focus. Most everything else can wait.

four / let them be little + live in the moment.

Living in the moment with your children is the purest form of intentional parenting. And letting them be little and not stopping their childhood moments because they are messy or silly or not something you would do is so rewarding. As adults, it often goes against our nature because we typically like things proper + clean + neat. But have you ever noticed how kids just don't care? If I go 24 hours without a shower I can barely stand it, but if the girls go a few days between baths they don't even notice. If I were doing a project and got paint on my hands or clothing, I would wash it off right away, but when my girls are drawing or painting they are having so much fun they don't give a second thought to the mess. What if as adults we could be more like that? Just carefree and living in the moment; how much more would we enjoy life if we took that approach like they do.

Last week I was getting ready for a night out with some girlfriends and as I was making dinner before I left, I had music playing and one of my favorite songs came on so I turned it up and Olivia and I spent the next 10 minutes dancing like crazy in the kitchen. We were laughing so loudly and it was so much fun to just be goofy and giggle with her. I didn't plan that moment ahead of time, it just happened. And the key? I let it happen. I didn't stop it, I just went with it. Let your children be children and set aside your plans or expectations and just live in the silly, messy, goofy, unexpected moments as they come. Those are the very best kind. 

five  / include them. 

As much as we may want to have fun all the time, in reality there are lots of things we have to do as Moms that don't always scream FUN. Adult things. You know...errands, laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, appointments...day to day tasks that we are most often responsible for while also caring for our little ones. I've found that with so many things that I have to do, I can include my girls so easily. 

Cooking dinner in the kitchen? I make sure there is music on and it leads to the best dance party. Running errands and spending more time than usual in the car? We play games like "I Spy" or car bingo (we love these bingo cards) and sing songs or I ask Olivia and Penelope random questions they can answer so I can listen and learn more about their perspective instead of just having the radio on and not interacting. Cleaning the house? Assign tasks to each child that they are capable of. Olivia loves using our cordless vacuum in the basement or on the steps. Poppy loves putting away stacks of pajamas after I've folded them and they both do a great job of picking up and organizing toys and books. I can clean alongside them and still remain present. Christmas shopping? Bring your (older) child with and get their input on gifts. They can even make their own list of "gifts" they want to buy for their stuffed animals or friends -- it's so sweet to hear them think about what would be special for their teddy bear or favorite bunny. I spent most of the afternoon last weekend gift shopping and I was so glad Olivia had come with me. She had a blast helping me select special gifts for each person on my list and even found some small things to give her sisters. Fit in lunch or a hot cocoa date between stores and give your child one on one time (this is especially important when you have multiple kids) and something out of the ordinary to look forward to. In anything I am doing, I try to find a way to include my girls and make it fun for them and in turn, it becomes fun for me. You can be present even on busier days by talking with them, listening, asking their opinion and finding special ways to include them.

In what ways do you stay present with your children? I always think of the song "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins. Seriously though, it probably plays through my head at least once a week. The chorus goes like this: "you're gonna miss this / you're gonna want this back / you're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast / these are some good times / so take a good look around / you may not know it now / but you're gonna miss this"

I know I will surely miss these days with my baby girls. Little feet running down the halls and a baby always at my feet or in my arms. Small soft hands in mine and sweet, innocent voices being heard in every room; knowing in this season my nights will be filled with brushing tiny teeth and washing little faces, with book reading and cuddling, rocking and singing but too soon that will change and I'm sure I'll want it back. These really are the good times, and while there is so much to look forward to as they grow, we won't ever get these precious days with our children as little as they are back. Let's be present -- for them and for us. 

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