Anyone who regularly reads my blog, or knows me in person, will likely know that the girl and I have been experiencing some growing pains lately. Tegan is amazing, and sweet, and energetic, and funny. I thank God every day that I get to be her mom, just as I do with her brothers. And oh, the good days are very, very good….. and the not-as-good days can be, well, hard. I am learning things I never learned with my first three. In fact, there have been many times over the past three and a half years that I’ve honestly felt that I’m a first-time parent all over again. I have been challenged to be a better parent, and a more patient parent, more than ever before.
One thing I’ve discovered this time around is the importance of re-centering and re-connecting when things are getting squirrelly. When one or both of us are out-of-sorts, when she’s tired or frustrated or overwhelmed, when that moment comes when traditional parenting advice would have you doling out some form of “discipline”…. that is the point that I know it’s time to take a deep breath, a step back, and a moment for both of us to have a break from the situation together. Rather than removing HER from the predicament and/or the room, we change course and re-gather our bearings, together. A “time-in,” if you will.
Here are 52 different things that work for us. (Why 52? Because that’s the random number that came to my head when I started typing the title. And because, why not)
1. Get wet. Water is amazing at turning a mood around. Water in a sink, in the tub, from a hose, in a kiddie pool … it all works wonders. Is it raining? Go dance in it!!
2. Play some music. The kids and I are all in love with the free music sites like Groove Shark. Favorite songs, whether playing softly in the background, or cranked to high volume, are always a great pick-me-up.
3. Go outside. Or, if you’re already outside,
4. Go inside. Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery.
5. Take a field trip. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy. My kids are thrilled to go to the Dollar Store. They also love going to places like PetSmart to look at the fish.
6. Dance. Tegan loves to dance. She doesn’t even need any music to dance to, but adding it to music makes it even more fun, especially when she does ballet to a rock song, or starts head-banging to a ballad.
7. Yell. Sometimes you have to let it out. Go outside, or better yet, to a secluded spot in the desert (or forest or wherever you live) and yell your little hearts out.
8. Throw something. A ball, a frisbee, a wadded up piece of paper, a rock in a river….
9. Bake something. “Can we make cookies?” is an oft-heard question around these parts. (The answer, of course, is yes.)
10. Grab a camera. The other day, Tegan was tired and grumpy, and agreed to lay down with me in my bed. I had my cell phone with me, and she was thrilled when I showed her the self-portrait feature. She was happy, and relaxed, and entertained for a good hour while we took pictures like these:
11. Watch a movie. Don’t forget the popcorn.
12. Clean something. It may sound weird, but sometimes a good sweeping, mopping, or scrubbing is fun and relaxing for both of us.
13. Play with your food. It is soothing and relaxing to run your hands through and play with dry rice or beans or a little flour. Not too long ago, I had some ground decaf coffee in the cabinet (which I don’t drink) so I spread it out on a cookie sheet, and the girl happily played, scooped and dumped to her heart’s content.
14. Yoga, meditation, or prayer. Or a little bit of all three…. whatever helps you and your child get calm and centered and connected.
15. Wii Fit. We use this a lot lately, and it’s a great way to move and have fun at the same time. If you don’t have Wii, any sort of jumping around and exercising works just as well.
16. Get your hands dirty. If you’re Tegan, get your whole body dirty.
17. Spend time with an animal. At the time of this writing, we have a dog, a rat, a tarantula, a fish, and 6 chickens. If you don’t have a pet, borrow time with someone else’s. My kids all love going to the grain store where we get our chicken feed, because they get to visit with rabbits, ferrets, baby chicks, and exotic reptiles.
18. Build something. Legoes and blocks are always fun, and if you’re feeling more adventurous grab some wood and some nails.
19. Play cards. We always have several decks – and partial decks – hanging around the house. Even the littlest kids like to just play with, sort, and fling cards. There’s Go Fish, War, and Crazy Eights. And there are a million tricks you can learn to amaze and inspire. Try this link for ideas.
20. jacksonpollock.org It’s just fun.
21. Color. Stay in the lines or not. Your choice.
22. Put on a costume. Wear it with pride.
23. Sidewalk chalk. We like to draw murals, make hopscotch boards and obstacle courses, and trace our bodies crime-scene style.
24. Drive. No need to have a destination. There’s always a whole new dynamic in the car.
25. Pull an old game from the closet. An old favorite, or the one you never want to play because it has a million pieces.
26. Do a puzzle. Don’t have a real-life one handy? Do one virtually.
27. Play in the laundry. Even the seven year old still loves it when I dump a clean basket of laundry on his head before I fold it.
28. Take something apart. My kids have taken apart everything from old VCRs to Playstations to lawn mowers.
29. Go to the library. We usually come home with dozens of books… but it’s always fun browsing and reading even if we don’t.
30. Do a science experiment. The boys have accumulated some really cool science kits and chemistry sets. But even good old baking soda and vinegar works in a pinch.
31. Have a carpet picnic. It’s a very well known fact that food tastes better when it’s eaten on a big blanket spread picnic style on the carpet. Watching the Oscars or the Super Bowl while you eat is optional.
32. Have a carpet nap. Because picnicking is tiring.
33. Look at pictures. Tegan especially loves it when I dig up pictures from my own childhood. The older, the better.
34. Call a friend. My first inclination when I’m having a rough day is to hole up in my own house, and not see, talk, or otherwise socialize with anyone else. But. Sometimes it is very helpful for me and the girl to be around a kind and trusted third party.
35. Read a book. Or two or seven. It’s kind of an obvious one, but I couldn’t leave it out. Get comfy on the couch and read, read, read.
36. Redecorate. Hang some new pictures, rearrange the room, or draw on the windows with window markers. We got an old children’s table and chairs for free, and the girl is sprucing it up herself.
37. Laugh. Watch a goofy movie, take turns telling corny jokes, or have a silly contest.
38. Tie yourself in knots. When I was little, my dad used to put one of his big flannel shirts on my sister and I. He’d button it all up, then wrap the arms behind our backs and tie them up. We’d laugh and laugh while we rolled around and tried to escape.
39. Blow bubbles. We’ve tried a lot of different fancy bubble blowers and gadgets, but I still think the plain old, inexpensive bottles and wands work the best. And they make the girl deliriously happy.
40. Make paper snowflakes. It’s always fun, no matter what time of year it is.
41. Replicate a favorite store-bought treat at home. The internet makes it really easy to make a knock-off of your favorite confection from Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Cinnabon, or whatever strikes your and your child’s fancy.
42. Playdough. We also like clay and modeling wax, anything we can squish and mold and shape with our hands.
43. Make an indoor tent. Chairs + big sheet or blankets = great hideaway for reading, coloring, snacking, or hanging out.
44. Do nothing. Seriously. Just sit, and breathe, and relax, and BE together.
45. Write a letter. Not an email (not that emails aren’t great, too) but a letter. On paper. Or draw a picture, or make up a little package of stickers or other goodies, and mail it to a child that you love.
46. Make a big, huge, list together. Or, if you already have one, pick something that you haven’t done, and do it.
47. Go for a walk. Stop and look at trees and rocks and leaves and sticks. Let your child lead.
48. Sew something. The kids love it when I have the sewing machine out, but good old needle and thread works too. For tiny fingers, lacing with big beads is always fun.
49. Shoot a Nerf gun. We have a LOT of Nerf guns laying around our house. I’m always surprised at what a stress reliever it is when I pick one up and shoot it. For the older boys, we also have bb guns and bows and arrows.
50. Massage. Even lots of babies enjoy massages (It’s a good idea to be versed in infant massage first) You can massage your toddler, or have her give YOU a massage. Tegan loves walking up and down my back while I lay on the floor. Win/win.
51. Let them cry. No, not in the leave them alone in a room, and make them cry-it-out way. But sometimes, a person just has to cry. There have been times when I’ve done absolutely everything I can possibly think of, and the girl is just so tired or frustrated or disappointed that she just needs a good cry. So I let her know I’m there, hold her if she wants me close, and I let her cry.
52. Break the rules. We don’t really do rules in our house. We do principles, and they generally just apply to treating ourselves, and each other, with respect. But I know a lot of people do have rules, and rather than viewing those difficult days as a time to more strictly adhere to the rules, I think the opposite is in order. Let that be the one time you have cookies before dinner, or stay up past bedtime, or jump on the couch.
“One day at a time – this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”