It’s only 8:30 a.m. and it’s already been a pretty interesting morning. Currently, my two toddler boys are running around the house naked. Yes, you read that right. Naked. While I was distracted with some household chore - either unloading the dishwasher or folding the laundry - my little monsters decided it was a good idea to take off every article of clothing. I should’ve known they were up to no good when I realized the suspicious moment of silence.
After noticing their rebellious act against clothes, I observe them as they become involved in some deep, serious game where one is pretending to be a lion and the other is building, what appears to be, a house made of blocks. I don’t even attempt to understand what’s going on in their minds, but better yet, I don’t attempt to stifle the moment. Normally, I’d be barking at them to put their clothes back on and to pick up their toys. Not today and probably won’t be the case for the rest of the summer.
Yes, eventually they will have to put some clothes on, especially before leaving the house. No, we aren’t apart of some nudist colony. Are they hurting anyone? No. In fact, they’re happily playing with each other in pure, untainted enjoyment. I don’t hear any fighting with one another that all too often becomes the background noise to our everyday lives. My presence isn’t required to referee a disagreement related to sharing or turn-taking. Better yet, I’m not indulging in an unnecessary power struggle forcing them to put on some clothes right this instance or else.
Before their clothing strike, when the kids wanted to enjoy some sugary cereal while watching their favorite show, I agreed. My answer normally would be no in an attempt to limit screen time and encourage them to sit at the table as a family while eating a somewhat healthy breakfast. Instead, we sat together on the couch as they enjoyed their cereal - all smushed on one cushion because in a typical toddler fashion, they would rather be sitting on me than allowing any iota of distance between us. In extreme detail, they told me everything about the show we were watching, why they liked their cereal, what they wanted to do today, what their favorite color was and other typical toddler conversation topics. It was unbelievably refreshing to be completely present in this moment.
As I look around, toys are everywhere! I can’t remember the last time I let it get this bad. Long before this point, my usual reaction is to intervene by asking, begging and pleading them to pick up. All of us parents are well aware, this isn’t a ‘one request and done’ task. Typically, this would’ve resulted in me nagging them endlessly throughout the morning and maybe into the afternoon. Not today. They had the freedom to play to their heart’s content allowing their creative imaginations to run wild without interruption.
Reflecting on my years as a stay-at-home mom, I find myself spending more time instructing, disciplining, and implementing rules than actually enjoying time with my kids. In an attempt to be this perfect parent and follow this never-ending list of rules and guidelines dictating what you should and shouldn’t feed your child, how much screen time they should or shouldn’t be exposed to and importance of teaching life lessons on sharing and turn-taking, I’m missing out. I’m missing out on these beautiful, spontaneous moments that happen when I just let them be. Why am I allowing these unrelenting pressures and stressors get in the way of being the parent I want to be? Instead, I’m spending way too much time and energy attempting to be this ridiculous, unattainable notion of what a perfect parent is.
This summer, I vow to try a new approach and live a toddler-led adventure. Not only do I desperately want to enjoy this precious time with my boys, we are also busy figuring out our new normal as a family of five with the recent addition of our third child. Suffice it to say, life is a little crazy and chaotic requiring extra flexibility. There’s no need to put any unnecessary pressure on our family and create this miserable environment filled with constant badgering and incessant nagging. I’m relaxing the reins this summer and maybe if all goes well, for the foreseeable future.
We will probably have more TV time than the recommended two hours a day. We might have a hot dog for breakfast and more dinners comprised of dinosaur chicken nuggets and mac and cheese than I’d like to admit. Life will be messy. I won’t care or focus on the toys under the couch or dishes piled in the sink. Besides acting as unwelcomed distractions, they don’t matter. Right now, what matters most is using this time to create happy memories with my children and cherishing every second. Life is already passing us by too quickly. I won’t get this time back and there definitely won’t be a re-do button.
I’m taking advantage of this time to squeeze them, hug them, kiss them and play with them as much as possible. After all, they’ll only be this little for so long. There’s so much happiness to be had, and I don’t want to miss any of it. I will look back on this time remembering moments filled with laughs and smiles, not thinking about their how well-balanced their diet were or how great they cleaned up their toys.
I’m just going to sit back, relax and watch my boys ride their bikes around the house in their birthday suits. While they’re wearing bowls on their heads for hats and the biggest smiles on their faces, I’m reminded this is what it’s all about.