A Simple Kind of Childhood

delicateThe other day I was asked what kind of fun and crazy things I did this summer with my kids. I had to think about it…I didn’t really have much of an exciting answer.  Summer is no different than any other time of year for me and my children–SLOW and SIMPLE. Because I’m a stay at home mom of two very young kids, summer’s are full of playing outside with the hose, digging in the garden, building forts…all while I try to sit for a moment and finish a lukewarm cup of coffee. I have sacrificed my career and sometimes my sanity to make my children’s little world’s slow and simple. I’m trying to create an atmosphere of simplicity for my children so that they may learn to be happy and easily amused at the little things in life.

I don’t want children that sit back and wait to be entertained. I don’t want children that are constantly needing to be impressed with bigger and better gifts, activities, and events. I don’t want them to grow up and be constantly unsatisfied. The best way I know how to prevent this from happening is to spend time with them, not over indulging them, and give them opportunity and space for creativity, make-believe and wonder. Basically show them that joy and beauty is found in the little things.

I will admit that another motive for creating a slow and simple life is purely based on my survival. If I were to constantly be planning extravagant play dates, birthday parties, and daily activities for my kids I’d permanently burn out. If I were to fill my house to the brim with toys, our family would not be able to live a debt free life and my house would be full of clutter. I wouldn’t be able to focus on my main mission as a stay at home parent–making my children feel calm, confident and content.

Before staying at home, I was a high school teacher and [still am a] licensed counselor. My classroom and office were filled to the brim with unhappy and unsatisfied children and adults who seemed to have everything.  I couldn’t help but ponder how and why this was happening?

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As a teacher I saw a few different themes amongst my students. Some of these characteristics were part of being a teenager, but some were very problematic and abnormal based on the severity.

There was the STRESSED AND OVER SCHEDULED CHILD–This student was constantly stressed, staying up until all hours of the night doing homework and participating in many different extracurricular activities at one time. They weren’t happy. They didn’t have fun. I also felt like their focus on kindness and the ability to help others was the farthest thing from their mind.

I frequently saw the DISSATISFIED CHILDThis type of student that I worked with was the perpetually bored and dissatisfied kid. This child was  hard to teach because they were not easily motivated, amused or inspired, and were constantly looking to be impressed. They were entitled, overindulged and unhappy.

Then there was the LOST CHILD–This student lacked confidence in their own worth and ability. They didn’t have relationships to support them. They weren’t passionate about anything. Often times they made bad decisions with friends or romantic relationships because they were craving connection and purpose.

These types of children grow up into adults and continue to have these same problems.

Maybe, we as parents should focus on creating calm, confident and content children. By overindulging, and over scheduling our kids (all of which come from a place of good intention), we are stressing ourselves and our children out and not showing them how to be happy with what they have. We don’t leave enough time in the day to connect with our children and spend quality time with them.

I think the trick to this is that we as parents have to be calm, confident and content ourselves. Are we constantly stressed, over scheduled and unsatisfied? What can we do to simplify our lives and model a life for our children that is calm and loving? Maybe our priorities needs to be shifted…

Here’s a very real example: I know someone who gave their three year old an iPad for Christmas, took her to a concert and took her to get a manicure all in one month…A three year old! This type of thing is a fairly normal occurrence for this little lady. What will this three year old’s parents do to please, surprise and treat her when she’s 12 or 13? This kind of age inappropriate indulgence is going to be a problem for everyone involved in this little girls life.

Instead of “giving” our kids happiness, why don’t we give them the space to find it, appreciate it, and create it for themselves. This does not mean we as parents do not provide activities for our children to participate in and toys for them to play with. We don’t suddenly become anti fun. It just means that our lives don’t have to revolve around it. We don’t let the clutter and over scheduling take over. We maintain a calm house. We appreciate what we have. We as parents model happiness. Thus creating calm, confident and content children.

I let my kids be bored…They may discover a passion to fill their boredom.

I let my kids have unscheduled free time…They may need it to stay centered and calm.

I give my kids ample down time with family…More time for love and attachment gives them security and confidence.

As parents, lets cut ourselves a break and not focus on the stuff we should be buying for our kids and the activities we should have our kids participate in. Give our kids a few toys…have them participate in a few activities…Don’t let it take over.

Let’s give our kids a simple kind of childhood

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