Each night, we have a routine.
After baths, pjs, and bedtime stories, then we exchange hugs and kisses with Lily, tuck her in bed, and say goodnight.
Immediately we shuffle into the craft room next door and Cam excitedly situates himself at the tall table and starts to take out his play-doh. Plopping each multi colored blob onto the table to begin cutting and rolling it into pizzas, cookies, hot dogs, ice cream – whatever his little imagination decides that it is tonight.
While he does this, I sit myself down at the desk near him and open the laptop. I answer emails, schedule MOMS Club events, blog, plan our daily lives, network, etc. Recently I started to feel guilty about this. Feeling like I was giving him busy “stay out of my hair” work. Guilty that he was playing alone while I was essentially working.
But really I am not. I am giving him the opportunity to play with his current favorite toy without the distraction of his little sister climbing up, stealing pieces, and leaving them strewn throughout the house. I am giving him a way to wind down each night before bed, allowing him to stay up that extra hour we recently noticed that he needs in order to be ready for bed, letting him get some imaginative play in.
See, Cam has always been a very independent player. When he was younger, I would sit down on the floor where he was playing to try to involve myself and play with him but he would kind of shift away and continue playing. Maybe I did not try hard enough to push my way in, but I believed if he wanted me to play – he’d ask.
He sometimes asks me to help him build a train track with him on his train table or color with him, and I do. I know he knows that if he asked me to play with his play-doh with him, I would.
He also has begun to ask me if he can help me with things I am doing, which I almost always let him do.
Because of these habits of his, I allow him to play alone until he requests otherwise. Everyone needs a little alone time, a little down time. Toddlers are no different.
After a full day of his preschool class – circle time, snacks, lunch, crafts, activities, reading, dancing, playing – I know that he may need this quiet time with his play-doh as much as I need this quiet time blogging.
You may be wondering if there is any real point to this – there is.
I want every single one of you mommas to know this, you don’t have to engage 24/7 with your children in order for them to know they are loved and cared for.
When they need extra love, extra snuggles, extra attention – they will let you know. It isn’t always in a subtle way, it might be by way of a temper tantrum on the floor, but they will let you know.
If your child is content playing on his/her own, let them be.
There are parents out there that cannot leave the sight line of their children without a breakdown, so enjoy that you can carry on taking care of your household while they happily entertain themselves.
Some parents would trade all the coffee in the world for a kid capable of independently playing by themselves or with their siblings.
Instead of feeling guilty about putting your kids in front of a movie so you could get something (okay, ANYTHING) done – be proud of the fact that you now have kids with enough patience to sit still for any amount of time. THAT in itself is an accomplishment.
Stop feeling guilty that you are not sitting next to your kid all day long through all the legos, the books, the blocks, the cars, the dolls, the endless amounts of toys. Feel proud that have independent little beings that do not always need you to keep them busy.
Even if they aren’t keeping busy on something, as long as they’re content and not whining, that is okay too.
Kids are allowed to be bored. We live in such a busy world, we sometimes forget that it is okay to spend the day at home doing nothing. Actually, it is more than okay – I highly recommend it.
Just yesterday, I had a million and one plans for what Cam and I would do together on our first day together one on one since Lily was born. Instead we bought new play-doh which he played quietly with, ate lunch, and napped before going to dinner at Chick Fil A with some friends.
It was mundane for the better part of the day, but spending that time with him at home was just as good as any plans we had.
Your kids do not need back to back play dates and plans in order to be busy and happy, stop putting so much pressure on yourself.
You’re not a party host. You don’t need to make sure everyone has a full glass, filled plate, and entertainment. You will exhaust yourself.
Let these little beings guide the way, if they’re hungry or tired or thirsty or needing entertainment – they will tell you.
Until them, just let them be. Let them relax. Let them entertain themselves for a while.
And don’t feel guilty about it.
You don’t have to be engaged 24/7 to give them a good life.