|(Artist and Title Unknown)|
I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day.
("Solitude" by Lewis Carroll)
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day.
("Solitude" by Lewis Carroll)
I was recently asked by the Relief Society (my church's women's organization) in my ward to put together and present a workshop on "Boredom Busters: What to do with your kids in the summer".
Now, I'm not scared or nervous to teach a class or talk in front of people. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to do! HOWEVER, as you should know if you're familiar with my blog here, I have some strong opinions about certain issues, and the idea of teaching a class on what moms can plan and do to keep their kids "busy" in the summer could have been dangerous territory for ALL of us!
But, as I pondered about it, and discussed it with my husband, my mom, and a good friend I greatly admire, I came to the conclusion that the women on the activity committee must have been inspired to ask me, so I was going to go forward with kindness, love, while still being true to myself and my convictions.
I am happy to report that it was well received, and I felt peaceful about delivering the words that Heavenly Father wanted me to say. WHEW!
I've been planning to share my notes from the class for a while, but when I read this awesome article today, I knew I had to be brave here on my blog, as well, and share what I presented to the wonderful ladies in my amazing ward. (Love you gals!) I think that now, at the beginning of summer, is the ideal time! So here goes:
Summertime: It's All About Attitude!
I have two questions to ask you.
1. What are the complaints you get from your children throughout the summer?
2. Now, what are the words that YOU think of when you contemplate your children being with you every day, all day long in the summer?
Now look at your two answers. Do you see a similar theme running between the two? When you think of your honest responses to both questions, do you sense a connection?
May I suggest that both the children in our homes-- AND us-- need an attitude adjustment!
Seeing Summertime as an Opportunity
Instead of seeing summer vacation as a trial, with attempts to fill every moment of our childrens' days with things to do outside our homes, I challenge us to see the summer months as an OPPORTUNITY to re-connect with our children. A phrase that's been playing over and over again in my head these last few months is this:
"Behold Your Little Ones"
Elder M. Russell Ballard has taught us the importance of the Savior’s admonition to 'behold your little ones' when he said: 'Notice that He didn’t say ‘glance at them’ or ‘casually observe them’ or ‘occasionally take a look in their general direction.’ He said to behold them. To me that means that we should embrace them with our eyes and with our hearts; we should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father, with divine attributes' " (“Behold Your Little Ones,” Tambuli, Oct. 1994, 40; emphasis added; “Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 59).Are we stopping in all of our rushing about to behold-- really SEE-- our children? Are they strangers to us? Do we know their hopes, their dreams, their concerns? When was the last time we looked in the eyes of our children to see their very souls?
Our time with our children is so fleeting, and we have only a few years where they are under our influence and in our homes. Are we taking advantage of this time? Are we cherishing these moments with OUR little ones?
LDS President Thomas S. Monson has said the following:
"My brothers and sisters, time with your children is fleeting. Do not put off being with them now. Someone put it another way: Live only for tomorrow, and you will have a lot of empty yesterdays today." (April 2005 General Conference)
When we have our children at home with us during school breaks, we are given the great gift of TIME. I would like to share four other four-letter words that can help us know what to do with our kids, while we have them all to ourselves.
|Our Little Girls Demonstrating Free PLAY Time|
Rousseau framed childhood with this thought.:
"You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? never in his life will he be so busy again."Children learn best through free, unstructured play. When parents over-schedule or over-stimulate their children, they are robbing them of the chance to think, explore, imagine, and think about the great things in the universe. There have been several articles* in recent years about the toll that over-scheduling is taking on families. And when our children are being electronically stimulated by game consoles, television, movies, or computer games, they are NOT able to let their minds wander and ponder.
I think it can be a fun and exciting family challenge to try a Media or Game Fast for a few days, a week, or even a month, during the summer. But we can't just empty the time, and then walk away from our children. We can play with them! Give them ideas of things to try, like building a fort out of cushions and blankets, catching bugs, going on nature walks, or running through the sprinklers. We need to remember that kids spell "LOVE" T.I.M.E.. How much of it are we spending with them?
That brings me to the second "Four-Letter Word":
Summertime gives us more opportunities to say "I love you," and to spend time face to face with our little ones. Love is what urges us to share our testimonies with our children. When we share that precious possession with our children, we are giving them our greatest treasure! Our love for our children is only enriched and enlarged by our love for our Heavenly Father.
Do our children know, feel, and see our devotion to truth? Do they know what we believe? What we reverence?
Margaret S. Lifferth put it this way:
"Children are open to gospel truths more than at any other time, and protected childhood is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach and strengthen children to choose the right."Fredrick Douglass once said:
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."Summertime is a wonderful time to help nurture and build our children's personal testimonies!
We can also show our love for our children by establishing new, or reinforcing old, traditions. Is there something we can try this summer that we've always wanted to try? A small town Independence Day parade? A camping trip or two? A visit to relatives at the Family Reunion?
Traditions. Make some!
|Caught in the Act of Cleaning!|
School vacations are a FABULOUS time to teach our children how to WORK! We all want our children to leave our homes knowing how to care for themselves. All parents hope their kids will step out into the world as capable, independent people. But when our kids are always gone from home, how can they learn the skills they need? The schools are not the place for them to learn those things, and sports practices, music and dance lessons, and loads of homework keep the teaching of home skills at bay, as well.
So, vacation time can be a great gift to parents, if we utilize it. If we have older children, the domestic clocks are really ticking away, and we should start teaching life skills NOW.
Assigning chores is important. However, our children cannot succeed at housework until they are taught HOW the work should be done. Family Work-- work done together-- is the key to this teaching. The very best advice on how to implement a culture of Family Work is found in an amazing article by Kathleen Slaugh Bahr of Brigham Young University.
Sister Bahr gives us lots of reasons why Family Work is so important. (This is a LONG quote, but it's all so good!):
"Ironically, it is the very things commonly disliked about family work that offer the greatest possibilities for nurturing close relationships and forging family ties. Some people dislike family work because, they say, it is mindless. Yet chores that can be done with a minimum of concentration leave our minds free to focus on one another as we work together. We can talk, sing, or tell stories as we work. Working side by side tends to dissolve feelings of hierarchy, making it easier for children to discuss topics of concern with their parents. Unlike play, which usually requires mental concentration as well as physical involvement, family work invites intimate conversation between parent and child."Former President of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball stated the reasons for Family Work beautifully:
"We also tend to think of household work as menial, and much of it is. Yet, because it is menial, even the smallest child can make a meaningful contribution. Children can learn to fold laundry, wash windows, or sort silverware with sufficient skill to feel valued as part of the family. Since daily tasks range from the simple to the complex, participants at every level can feel competent yet challenged, including the parents with their overall responsibility for coordinating tasks, people, and projects into a cooperative, working whole."
"Another characteristic of ordinary family work that gives it such power is repetition. Almost as quickly as it is done, it must be redone. Dust gathers on furniture, dirt accumulates on floors, beds get messed up, children get hungry and dirty, meals are eaten, clothes become soiled. As any homemaker can tell you, the work is never done. When compared with the qualities of work that are prized in the public sphere, this aspect of family work seems to be just another reason to devalue it. However, each rendering of a task is a new invitation for all to enter the family circle. The most ordinary chores can become daily rituals of family love and belonging. Family identity is built moment by moment amidst the talking and teasing, the singing and storytelling, and even the quarreling and anguish that may attend such work sessions."
"Some people also insist that family work is demeaning because it involves cleaning up after others in the most personal manner. Yet, in so doing, we observe their vulnerability and weaknesses in a way that forces us to admit that life is only possible day-to-day by the grace of God. We are also reminded of our own dependence on others who have done, and will do, such work for us. We are reminded that when we are fed, we could be hungry; when we are clean, we could be dirty; and when we are healthy and strong, we could be feeble and dependent. Family work is thus humbling work, helping us to acknowledge our unavoidable interdependence; encouraging (even requiring) us to sacrifice "self" for the good of the whole." ~(Family Work by Kathleen Slaugh Bahr)
"Who can gauge the value of that special chat between daughter and Dad as they weed or water the garden? ... And how do we measure the family togetherness and cooperating that must accompany successful canning? Yes, we are laying resources in store, but perhaps the greater good is contained in the lessons of life we learn."
|Sister Reading to Brother|
There is power in a shared experience, and when we share a great book with our children, we have something wonderful to discuss! When we cry together, sit at the edge of our seats in suspense, and laugh at funny circumstances, we bond together as a family. And when the story is an enriching tale filled with the struggle between good and evil, we are also teaching our children important lessons they would never learn from sitting through a parental lecture.
When we read "out of the best books" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118), we learn about the intricacies of human nature, about the differences between right and wrong. We also learn how to transform ourselves into the people God needs us to be.
When we read as a family, we should also take it one step further, and have those discussions which modern laws forbid the classroom to have. We should reinforce the lessons these good books teach us. Would we be strong enough to act as Jane Eyre did? Is it right to choose romantic love above personal convictions? What is right? What is wrong? What would WE do in that character's place? Our children need to be able to answer the vital questions we ask. The Socratic Method can be utilized, and every parent can begin those kinds of great discussions with the simple question of "Why?".
Great books inspire us, they change us. And when we read great books together as a family, we can ALL be transformed!
|Pile on Dad!|
HOME IS A HAVEN
Our homes should be the sanctuaries our children run to, away from the chaos and turmoil of the world. In their time at home, they are OURS alone, if we turn off the media and the distractions, allowing them to be our own.
Think of all the wonderful possibilities this summer holds for our families! Let's laugh together! Learn together! Play together! Sing together! Work together! Read together!
I challenge each of us to try some of these things together with our families during school breaks this year. The Lord will help us!
It never takes a "special kind of mom" to spend time with her children.
It only takes an inspired one.
*Links to articles on over-scheduling children: