Parenting Made Simple

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
PeopleImages / iStock

In today’s world where we are pressured to do more, have more, be more, I have felt like our simple moments of joy often get buried beneath that huge to-do list that screams obscenities at us in the middle of the night. And then if you become a parent, your kids are expected to follow the craziness. They must play on this team, have this toy, go on this vacation, play this instrument, be in this school, wear these clothes, achieve these things. Kids are burning out by the time they hit junior high because the world is just too much. I’m exhausted just thinking about their lives.

On the other hand, one of my best memories of being in junior high was this one afternoon when I was hanging with three of my girlfriends. We had been lying around all afternoon, bored, trying to figure out something totally tubular to do.

The conversation probably went something like this:

Me: I’m, like, so totally over this day. I’m hella bored and we just, like, completely ran out of Mountain Dew.

Sarah: No shit, Sherlock. I want to do something boss, like, something mega-boss. Something everyone will remember, like forever.

Michelle: You guyyys…

Us: What?!

Michelle: You know what we should do?

Us: No. What?!

Michelle: We should dress up like pirates.

Us: Yaaassss!

Debbie: And…and…and…we should ride our bikes through town, dressed like pirates.

Us: Yaaassss!

And we did this. We thought that we were the funniest people who ever existed. We were 13 years old and our parents thought nothing of saying, “Sure, you weirdos, go into town on your bikes dressed like that. Whatever. We’ll just pretend like we don’t know you.”

The whole point of this story is that, at 13-years-old, we had the space and the time and the freedom to do something weird and obnoxious, but ultimately real and simple and memorable. More than anything in the world, I want these same insane moments for my own kids.

I don’t know about you, but my favorite times with my children are those tiny moments of happiness that I didn’t plan or organize or obsess over. Those warm morning snuggles, sitting on the deck and drinking some wine while the kids play with a hose, laughing at a really horrible joke that my 9-year-old told, or my whole family leaping out of their skins every time by that stupid tiger that jumps out in Zootopia. Simple moments that provide pure joy. We all have access to these moments if we just know where to look for them.

I need to be better at finding these moments. We all need to be better.

Recently I have found them by…

Putting my phone in another room and consciously stifling the urge to check in on anything.

Looking directly into my child’s eyes while he’s telling me a story even if it’s the most boring and long-winded story in the history of stories.

Setting up a blanket fort in the yard when my children beg me to, even though I know that the laundry is going to ultimately make life harder.

Painting their nails in a rainbow and then listening to them complain for the next year of my life because sitting to wait for their nails to dry “is just too hard.”

Turning the radio down while in the car and doing a story collaboration all the way to the grocery store.

Brushing her hair sloooowly so that I don’t pull it, which usually cascades into her hollering, and me saying, “Sit still!” and then we both hate each other.

Making vacations out of our time together. We don’t need anywhere fancy to go — we’ve got Yahtzee and bubble water in champagne flutes.

Being there. Even if we only see each other for 15 minutes some days. Kids know when you are there in the room with them as opposed to your work planet, your stress planet, your grown-up planet.

It doesn’t take a lot to give our kids a glimpse of what life can be like when we slow down, and listen, and give them space to find those moments of joy and the freedom to be the total weirdos that they were meant to be.

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