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By Allison Malnar

Realization:

About a year ago, as I was making my bed I had the overwhelming feeling that I was wasting time.  I felt my heart constrict as I thought about my children playing in the other room and I was not in there playing with them.  I felt panic as I realized that time was slipping away and I was focused on cleaning my house instead of taking advantage of this time with my little children.

I realized that every day for the past two weeks I had the thought, “Tomorrow, when I finish this project I will play with them. “  I literally felt that I had “a vision” of all the regret I would feel if I didn’t take advantage of the present moment and do the things that were the most important.  I decided to begin that moment to put my children first.  I can summarize the above paragraph in an anonymous quote, “The smartest advice on raising children is to enjoy them while they are still on your side.”

The Quest:

This experience led me on a quest to become the best parent I could be.  I read books, I read articles, and I listened to seminars via my ipod as I was working out.  Here are some of the things I have learned.

“The point is not to do remarkable things, but to do ordinary things with the convictions of their immense importance.”  –Teilhard de Chardin

I decided that I would INCLUDE my children in my household chores—teach them how, and work alongside them.   We made a chore list and I help them with it as I teach them how.  At first, things were hard.  Even though my intentions were pure, I found myself losing patience when things took three times as long to accomplish because little hands were helping.  I didn’t outwardly show my impatience—but I felt it and wondered if I could really change my parenting style in such a drastic way.  Now, several months later, they know that first thing in the morning, they wake up, make their bed, and immediately say their prayers before they begin their day.  (My children’s ages are six, four and two.)

I decided to take 30 minutes here and there to play with my children. I began to set a timer at different times throughout the day for thirty minutes so that I would play with my kids.  I began to actually DO all the things that I kept telling myself I would do.   We made forts, we read books on a blanket in the yard, we played cars, and made and frosted cupcakes. In fact, it is no longer painful for me to play for thirty minutes.  I use to watch the timer and think, “Only fifteen minutes left.”  But now, I actually lose myself in our playtime.   Thirty minutes turns into an hour sometimes.  I have found that NOTHING is more important that the “now” where my children are concerned.

I have learned to meet emotional needs.  If they are feeling hurt, sad, upset, afraid, I have found that taking a moment to hold them and sit for a moment usually meets this need. I hug them a lot more and touch their head or shoulders as I walk by.  In “30 Days to a Smart Family” by Paul Lewis and Thom Black they say, “Research suggests that it takes four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and sixteen for emotional growth.  I give them looks that say, “I love you, I like you.”  I try to only speak in kind tones—if they are in trouble, I do use a stern tone but I make sure I do a follow up talk.  We talk about the situation and I help remind them that some things are inappropriate but that I am here to help them learn from mistakes.

I am trying to live a life with no regrets.  By the time my children become teenagers—we will have stored enough fun and good memories that will hopefully last us through those bumpy and possibly difficult times.

The Pay-Off

Some rewards I have experienced as I have invested time into my children:

*The other day my four-year-old daughter told me I was her best friend.

*At nap time my 2 year-old son told me that I was the funniest mom in the world.

*At bedtime my oldest daughter asked me to just hug her.

*Their behavior towards each other has improved.  They are more obedient and happier.  Whining has decreased substantially.

*I not only love my kids—I like them.

I know I am living so that I have no regrets.

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