The Longest Shortest Time
If you’re a parent, you probably know about the phenomenon, “The Longest Shortest Time”…It’s the first several years of your child’s life when the days feel SO long but the years fly by–and suddenly your newborn baby has grown into a walking, talking little person, and you wonder how it could have all passed so quickly.
Then they go off to daycare or school and you go to work (in or out of the home), and time changes again to the quick-paced society we know–versus the minute-by-minute, even second-by-second pace of feedings and diaper changes, quiet tummy time and piercingly tearful evenings, snugly days and sleepless nights.
I have a feeling that in the midst of this global pandemic and national shutdown, many of you have been thrown back into the “longest shortest time.”
Except maybe right now it just feels like the longest time. Suddenly, your kids are at home with you, demanding your attention in a way that jolts you right back to their newborn days–the constancy of their needs, the disruption of previously known schedules, maybe even some of your own frustrations or anxieties about parenting: “am I doing enough? Are they learning enough? I just need a second to myself to get this work done!”
This is absolutely a stressful time for our nation and our society. And I wonder if it may also be an opportunity. To slow down time for a bit. To take in what is important to us. To spend treasured time with our little’s who are not so little anymore, and discover a little more about their world right now.
I know that juggling parenting, working (either as usual or remotely), finances, and keeping your family healthy is SO much to handle, and it feels as if you can barely shut your mind off for a second, while the rest of the world seems to be shutting down. What if we shifted our approach to time, to truly taking it day by day–surrendering in those moments we cannot fix anything immediately; taking in our surrounding environment since we’re stuck there all day anyway, and really appreciating it; spending time outside to absorb our natural environment; and most importantly, spending these gifted hours, days and weeks with the people we love the most.
Watching the daily growth in our children as we used to, witnessing how much they have learned in these years, hearing their uninhibited giggles, feeling the range of their moods and filling with wonder as we really take the time to observe and join them in the present, where they live so freely. They experience each day as another new day and will appreciate that extra time that we are with them…And I have a hunch we parents will appreciate the ability to lengthen that “shortest time” too.
There are a ton of resources for creative activities to do with your children during this hiatus from school or work, but the sheer number of them can be overwhelming to sift through, so here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create a flexible schedule to keep you on track: ex. 8-9 morning readiness (breakfast, getting dressed), 9-10 indoor play or reading (time for mom or dad to do work), 10 get moving (walk, yoga, exercise), 11 academics (independent study or providing a new tool for toddler like shapes, blocks, lacing), 12 Lunch, 1 quiet time, 230 structured activity (reading, nature scavenger hunt, older kids in charge of play?)…etc.
- Put on music and dance with each other, or have kids perform for parents; for younger ones, just try to mirror their movements and they will likely imitate yours
- Create a band with each member of the family using a different musical instrument; you can work on impulse control and leadership by having a director point to each person to start and stop (this may be hard for younger than 3 or 4)
- Have a picnic outside or on your living room floor
- Enlist the help of your kids with age-appropriate housecleaning (rag for younger, vacuum for older)
- Get involved in THEIR favorite activities: get on the floor and race cars or trains, play barbies, build Lego, learn their favorite video game
- Just be! Be present with them, notice the little baby features they still have, soak up those snuggles!
- And let yourself be amazed with them every day! 🙂
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