The most important thing to do with your children isn’t teaching them the ABCs, developing their oral language, teaching them how to read, or instilling manners or math skills. And while these things are important, they mean nothing without this…your love, your presence, your undivided attention…YOU.
I’ll do anything for my kids, and I want them to grow up knowing that I’ll always put them first – not with just my words, but my actions too.
Now, putting them first doesn’t mean that I put myself or my marriage second – because children need a happy mother, a happy father, and parents who love each other.
What it means is that I don’t want them to feel pushed aside because I needed to clean the house, work on my blog, or go on a date with Daddy. I want them to know without a shadow of a doubt that they are top priority and that I’d do anything for them.
Putting them first means that I will teach them things that will prepare them for the future and challenge their minds, that I will be there to set boundaries and hold them accountable, and that I will provide them with nutritious food and teach them how to make healthy choices. But most importantly, I will hold them. When they come to me with open arms, I will drop everything to squeeze them tight. I will hug them, cuddle them, smooth their hair, and scratch their backs until they pull away from me to go play. I will fill their tanks with so much love that they will have the confidence to be away from me and still wear my love on their sleeves.
When children feel loved, they can take on the world. It gives them confidence, strength, and the ability to love others. It makes them feel important and like they matter. Having parents who love them is what gives children their wings.
This is what that love looks like…
1. Hug, Kiss, Snuggle, and Cuddle
With four kids five and under, I have my hands full! I am constantly busy doing dishes, laundry, preparing food, setting up learning stations, writing, and any other number of things. Lately, I’ve realized how much I have to prioritize because it seems that I can never completely tackle my “to do” list. That being said, cuddles, hugs, kisses, and snuggles always take a top priority, especially when I can tell that my little ones need me. Even if I’ve just started making a batch of sourdough muffins or I finally found a time to sit down and write, I will stop whatever I’m doing to drop down and give a hug, or go to the couch and read a book, or just rock them on my lap and smooth their hair.
Even when my kids are happily engaged and playing and I’m elbows deep in chores, whenever I see a little body race by, I do not hesitate to scoop it up in a big bear hug and smother it with kisses, or give a head scratch, or a little back rub. I do not take these moments for granted. I know that they will only be little once and so I kiss their chubby cheeks, snuggle up on the couch with a pile of books and silkies, hug them tightly, and cuddle them close whenever I can.
2. Say I Love You Often
Sometimes, we tend to not say the things that are implied as often as we should. It might seem obvious by your actions that you love your children, but I think that they still need to hear you say it many many times every single day. It shouldn’t be something forced that you say on the hour, but whenever you feel it well up inside of you, just say it! Whenever you find yourself completely in awe of this life that you carried inside of you, that shared a body with you, that you nursed, cuddled, and rocked through so many things – whenever you get an ache in your heart because you can literally feel it growing with love, about to burst with joy, say it out loud! Tell them exactly how amazing they are and how complete they make you feel.
My kids have these amazing imaginations and play these crazy intricate imagination games with little figures and houses, building toys, or dress up clothes. my husband and I love getting on the floor with them and introducing new ways of play. Sometimes we’ll show them a new scenario and other times we’ll just follow their lead.
They need their tanks to be filled with love before they are ready to go and play on their own. One of our favorite things to do is to just play together. It’s an honor to be let into their worlds and it’s an insight into their brains and a little glimpse as to what is going on inside.
4. Tickle, Wrestle, and Fight
Every night before bed, my husband wrestles with all of the kids, and it is pretty much their favorite part of the day. It motivates them to drop whatever they’re doing and put their pajamas on so that they can race into the bedroom to fight their dad. He loves it too, and it is so cute to see them roughhouse and play. I’m a little better with the tickles than the wrestling. I know how to find just the right tickle spot…under the neck, behind the knee, or right on the belly! The kids love interacting with their grandpas through wrestling and fighting too. I think that wrestling is a very important part of the expression of love.
When you listen, and I mean really listen, you stop talking, you pause, you wait. With little children who don’t have the biggest vocabulary, it can be easy to speak for them and to supply an endless stream of chatter to make up for their silence. But when we learn how to slow down, stop talking, and really listen, we can hear so much more. If we get down to their level and get into their world they will open up in ways we couldn’t imagine.
6. Arrange Your Time
I know that we all have a thousand things to do and a million places to be, but we can make our lives as peaceful or as hectic as we want them to be. Trust me, we have gone through five moves and made some major life changes in the last five years so that we could be where we are today. When we had our first child and I came back into the classroom after an amazing 12 week maternity leave, a mother said something that really stuck with me. She actually wasn’t my student’s mother, but his grandmother who had taken custody of him and we were chatting about me being back at work. I said that of course I would love to be at home with my daughter, but I explained that I made more money than my husband and we couldn’t survive on one income. I explained how we didn’t have a choice, but even still, she said to me sweetly, “You can never get that time back.” How rude of her to say, I thought. Doesn’t she know my situation? But now that I’m staying home with my next two children and I see them throughout every single moment and milestone, I mourn for the time that I wasn’t with my first two while they were in daycare and I was juggling too much. We have worked hard to make our children a priority and it is a decision that I don’t think we will ever regret.
There are a lot of things that I like to blog about pertaining to how kids learn, how to use food as our medicine, how to use the best parenting strategies, and my journey into motherhood, but nothing, absolutely NOTHING is as important as what I’ve covered in this post. Yes, all of the things that I write about have helped to bring our family to its current state of happiness, but the number one priority above all is love. It’s about giving your children all of you, the best you, the real you, and it’s about enjoying every moment in the moment and realizing that these sleepless nights, endless cuddles, and constant companionship represents but a fleeting time in our lives that we should embrace.