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My Parenting Wake up Call: Easy Does It

This morning I sat on the bathroom’s cold tile floor, sipping coffee and reading an outdated magazine.

My toddler was taking a bath, frothy with too many bubbles, and I was keeping her company. She played. Sang songs to herself. Filled a plastic cup with water then dumped it out again.

She was happy.

I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for activities for my kids. This is especially true in the summertime when we’re all home together during the day. For each week of the summer we’ve chosen a learning theme, with age-appropriate activities and adventures planned.

I’ve orchestrated elaborate scavenger hunts and water play. I’ve worked with them on developmental tasks, speech and language, and gross and fine motor skills. We’ve done puppet-led social skills modeling, sensory play, and obstacle courses in the backyard.

I like to keep them busy. Active. Engaged. But this morning while my daughter sat splashing in the bath tub I asked myself a question: What really makes them happy?

No matter how many hours I spend notepad in hand jotting down ideas I’ve found on Pinterest, no matter what the child development experts say, they won’t be happy if I’m missing the point.

Kids need structured activities, but they need equal amounts structure and fun.

Sometimes what makes them the happiest are the simple things:

Rolling in the backyard grass.

Feeding the ducks in the creek.

Lying on a blanket watching the clouds.

I’m embracing a new rule for summer: the simpler the better. Instead of getting lost in the details of planning and activities, I’m vowing to get get lost in the pleasures of time spent together.

Have you recently had a parenting wakeup call?

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

More by Mary Lauren:

Giving My Daughter the Gift of Time

Why Putting Yourself First is Impossible

The Measure of a Mom

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