dear mother of young children

As summer begins here we are coming out of a time of business. Throughout the winter months we were busy with the cafe, baking, coffee roasting, church, beach days, eating out on our own or with friends, and as that season came to an end in April we packed up and caught a plane North. We spent three weeks traveling around my husband’s home state of Missouri and then wrapped up our trip with my sister’s wedding in northern Arkansas. The longest time we were in one place was 7 nights at a condo with my family preparing for the wedding celebrations. The kids did great but now that we are home in Mexico the exhaustion and stress is evident in them.

They spent three weeks playing with friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents; they swam in swimming pools and played at playgrounds; they endured being dragged around thrift stores and antique shops; they camped and sat around bonfires late into the night. They loved it. And yet, all this constant movement and entertainment seems to have left them irritable, unable to settle down and sleep through the night (Willow is up every 2.5 – 3 hours throughout the night right now), and virtually unable to play together. For a mum and dad all this equals exhaustion.

As different as our lives are, dear mother of young children, I believe it is possible that you might be finding yourself in a similar season. So I write you this letter to encourage you, and myself. We will find a new rhythm and a new grace for our families. Creating a safe haven in our homes takes work and planning ahead; it involves inspiration and imagination; it requires sacrifice and energy. So with all you can muster, let’s get started! Here are a few ideas that help me:

With my kids, whining and hunger usually go hand in hand. Whining, of course, is one of the easiest ways to drive me crazy! So to save all of us from having breakdowns I try to have healthy snacks on hand:
yogurt, fruit or veggies cut up in the fridge, cheese, nuts
Sometimes we make an event out of a snack:
an air popcorn popper is an event that everyone can participate in
I let my littles chop up their own banana or avocado

There are tons of recipes and ideas for crafts online! Yesterday we made play dough and I have a recipe for finger paints in the queue. I often have to sit with them during these projects and we have fun doing it together.  Painting with paintbrushes is another favorite.

We have a couple old, beat up mattresses that we pull out for nap time upstairs where it is cooler now. These mattresses double as a running  and jumping course. My kids love jumping along a path of mats and mattresses or from a sturdy stool onto a mattress.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all we need to get over the hump of the day. We go for a walk in the stroller, run to the corner store for groceries, sit at the beach for a while, or drop in and visit a friend. If I’m not up to going out I’ll just set up something for them in a different room in the house – maybe a fort or a snack area.

Tried and true activities for my 3.5 year old include a length of rope to tie things up with (hopefully not his sister!), cooking or baking anything, and “washing dishes”. My 2 year old loves anything to do with water! Sometimes a paintbrush with a little bucket of water and some object to paint is all she needs.

I am also a firm believer in unstructured play times.  I think it helps little ones develop their imagination and learn how to play and problem solve together on their own, strengthening a healthy independence. Occasionally I have to get them started but usually they are pretty inventive. I know this can be hard at the beginning when kids are used to being entertained but it is so worth it as I watch them sing, dance, and play in their own worlds.

Lastly, dear mother of young children, I promise that someday we will sleep again. Someday. We will eventually get back that hour of precious quiet time with tea or coffee in the morning and that relaxing dinner spent in conversation with the hubby. For now, grab those few moments you can find and just whisper a prayer of gratitude for your precious littles and for the immense honor and privilege we have been given in being their mums.

I am inspired by this playlist these days: Hillsong United ZION acoustic session

Love and blessings,
a beach bum mama

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