To-do: Play with my Children

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Daily I am struck by just how blessed I am to get to do life with these kids.  Yes, it’s chaotic.  Even as I write this with a  four-month-old in my lap, I’ve been asked six times to find paper doll accessories, watch ballet moves with a hoolah hoop and provide expert medical advice for minor injuries incurred while doing said ballet moves with a hoolah hoop.  Life is sweet.  Sometimes in the quieter moments when all five of us are cuddled on the couch, I breathe deeply, taking it all in, because this is a gift I have for now, but will not always have.  I’ve found over the last five years of parenting that there are so many choices I have to make to savor the time with my children and not miss the little moments of doing life with them.  

My resolution this year is to be fully present in the moments with my children and be a student of them.  What I mean by this is to study them- to find out what they really want/need from me.  I want to ask questions to understand what they are really thinking and feeling.  Often with my to-do list in hand, I want the quick version of their thoughts and feelings, but this year my goal is to patiently and attentively listen to them and engage with them.  

Having done this a little already, I know that one thing my three and five year old want more than anything is for me to get down on the floor and play with them.  And I am admittedly bad at this.  In fact, like so many parents in fairy tales, I have forgotten how to play.  Yes, I’ll sit on the floor and follow play-by-play instructions from my son on how to play robots, but really engaging in play is something I have not done since I was a child, and probably a very young child.  There are the occasional days when something really “clicks” and the engagement happens.  My kids recently put together a one hundred piece puzzle.  My three year old son who is an engineering-type was mesmerized by this activity and with great focus stayed on task with surprising motivation.  It was fun and I was fully engaged with him.  It was a task.  I can do tasks.  

As an adult I’ve realized how very much I like to work.  It’s not just out of necessity, though that is part of it.  Being busy with work makes me feel good about myself.  I get great satisfaction out of checking off items on my daily bullet point to-do list.  But checking off the laundry or documentation for my job may make me feel good, but it does not help me connect with my children.  

This year, I’m adding my kids to the to-do list.  Today, “play with the kids” is my task.  It may only be a few short years that they want me to be present and engaged with them and I am going to live fully in this present moment.  Everyone I meet from older generations says that these years when my children are little are the best years of my life.  And I know it’s true.  This year, I want it to be about them- not how I cope with motherhood, or how I cope with working…not about me at all.  Because, when I get lost in the moments with these babies, I have everything I need.  

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Amanda is a native St. Louisan. Amanda is married to David and they live in St. Louis City. They have three children, Jeana, age 4, Solomon, age 3 and Rosa due in September 2018. Amanda currently works part-time as a family nurse practitioner, primarily with women and children, and stays home part-time with her children. Amanda enjoys getting out to explore St. Louis with the kids (especially if it involves coffee), reading and listening to medical information about women's health and breastfeeding, fruitlessly attempting to keep a clean house, and watching Jeopardy with her husband.