One time, long ago, when my older children were very young, my friend, Tara, and I decided that it would be fun to let our kids decorate sugar cookies with colored frosting and sprinkles. We baked the cookies while the children
destroyed everything in sight played happily nearby; we prepared multiple bowls of colorful icing and placed the sugar sprinkles on the table—all while envisioning the delightful scene which was to take place: a childhood memory was about to be birthed for our wee ones. I had remembered decorating cookies with my mom and I was tickled to be creating this opportunity for my own family.
Because I was a fairly new mom and still wet behind the ears, I was trying to do this whole childhood thing correctly. I had read that “children need traditions”, so I called Tara and asked her to bring over her boys to help me start creating “something my kids could look forward to year after year”.
Guess how this whole scene played out? It was an EPIC FAIL (I can use those words because I have been a mother for a lot longer now and those are the kinds of things my teenagers say, so I say them too just to try to be cool…or rad…or sick…or phat…or whatever words mean groovy now). It did not turn out the way I had envisioned. In fact, it was supremely stressful, amazingly messy and really just not that much fun. And the cookies were really ugly.
Why did my vision of cherubic rapture dissipate so quickly? It fell to pieces for several reasons, and here they are:
1. Kids at age 3 and 1 are not ready to decorate sugar cookies. When the children are not coordinated enough to stay on their chairs without falling off, they are not coordinated enough to spread frosting on Santa.
2. I couldn’t force tradition. Traditions develop over years of shared—and enjoyed (this being the key word) activities. Traditions don’t normally involve unpleasant words such as “If you put any more frosting in your sister’s hair, I’m getting out the spankin’ paddle!”
3. I was trying to create an experience for my children that I thought was a necessary ingredient to a happy childhood. What I didn’t realize was that I had several more
messy impressionable years in which to fit these childhood experiences into. I did not have to introduce my children to all of my childhood experiences before they went to kindergarten. If we do all these “kid things” with ours too early, they’ll never remember any of them. And you’ll be really crabby because of their immaturity. Your kids are probably not exceptionally advanced even if they watch Baby Einstein every day and listen to Mozart at naptime. Face the facts, they are CHILDREN.
And here is what I learned from this exhausting experience:
1. I just needed to relax and enjoy my kids by letting them set the pace. At 3 and 1, even coloring together or picking up fallen leaves was a joy for them; It was a simple joy. Toddlers need simple. Toddlers do not need Martha Stewart.
2. Traditions evolve. The traditions that you remember from your childhood may not be the traditions that you develop with your own kids—and that’s OK. Your kids will ask you to do certain things that they associate with different seasons and you will do those things—no sense in forcing what no one enjoys or doing things that destroy your kitchen.
3. If you let kids have enough time to just play—really play (not organized sports and activities), they will experience childhood in all of it’s innocent glory. You can still think of things to do with them and create experiences to stimulate their sponge-like minds, but the happiest times will come to them when they feel the most free to be themselves.
So, here is my advice to all of you young moms out there feeling panicked about not “doing it right”. RELAX.
You ARE doing it right if you let your schedule and your planned itinerary disappear when your little one says, “Mommy, play?”.
And you ARE excelling if, when in your exhausted state, you put your little one to bed at night and you appreciate her perfection and God’s provision for undeserved blessing and love.
SAY THANK YOU TO GOD EVERY DAY FOR THE PRIVELAGE OF RAISING HIS KIDS.
Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.