What’s your favourite memory from this year?
I often get caught up in the ‘big moments’ of parenting, putting so much energy into preparing good food, creating exciting adventures, planning holidays and going overboard on parties. These things matter, of course, and I daresay my kids are grateful for them but what I have learned in my almost-13 years of parenting, though, is that the big things don’t matter half as much as the tiny moments.
“What’s your favourite memory from this year?” I asked my 8-year-old on New Year’s Eve. “When we made the apple muffins together and found the worm inside the apple,” came the prompt response. Not your sleepover birthday party? Not your hip hop concert? Not our trip to Europe at the beginning of the year? Nope. Nope. Nope. “Although I did like our after-dinner walks on Tuesdays,” she said. The little memories are her favourites. They are the ones that mean the most.
I’ve always known this, of course. As well as investing my heart and soul (and a good deal of my sanity) into the big things, I’ve tried very hard to pay attention to the little things too. Here are my top 10 ‘tiny moments’ that I try to share with my children regularly. The moments they remember; the moments I treasure.
10 Everyday rituals that mean a lot to kids
- After-dinner walks. On Tuesdays, it’s Lottie’s turn; Wednesdays is Max; Thursdays is Arabella. We don’t get to go every single week, but we do try to head out, even just for 15 minutes, most weeks. This is precious one-on-one time for my children and a way to strengthen our friendship as we amble along, talking about not much and everything.
- Baking muffins. These days my kids make these all on their own, but when they were smaller, ‘helping’ me bake was the highlight of their week. I pretty-much loathed every minute of it (baking with kids is bloody hard work), but I would never, ever let them know that. Instead, I would half-look forward to helping them explore the kitchen each week. Their happiness as they scooped, poured and stirred was enough for me to keep going, year after year.
- Feeding the pets. Another one that the kids are now responsible for, but a quality, everyday moment when they were small. Giving each child a little job to do made them proud and I’m sure helped develop their compassionate natures as they took responsibility for their pets.
- Bath time. The temptation to rush the bath was always strong during witching hour… but, a bath washes away a lot more than just dirt. Taking time to softly scoop water over the children’s backs and encouraging them to gently swirl the water, was meditative and calming.
- Cups of tea. I have long enjoyed my morning cuppa on the front verandah, overlooking the bush and taking 5 minutes to welcome the day. Years ago, I started serving the kids their milk in a tea cup so they could join me in my ritual. They respected that this was ‘quiet time’ and before long we were taking the moment to share what we would like to accomplish in the day. A three year old with a daily goal – not a bad outcome from our little tea ritual.
- Card games. My kids all love a game of cards, which is no surprise as they have been playing various card games all their young lives. We started with simple games like Go Fish and worked our way up to Gin Rummy and others. A quick card game while the dinner cooks is still one of my favourite moments of any day.
- Reading aloud. The benefits of reading with kids is well-documented. It’s so good for them. What I never stopped to consider until it was almost gone, though, is how beneficial it is for parents too. Reading to your children is an enormously rewarding thing to do and, quite possibly, the only ‘quiet time’ you get together in a whole day. When you think about it like that, the 157th re-telling of Where is the Green Sheep? mightn’t feel like such a punishment.
- Winks and in-jokes. By far my most precious moments with my kids have all centred on sharing a joke that only we get. The kids all love it when I wink at them, or pull a silly face behind their dad’s back, or tell them a joke about something we’ve experienced. They like to feel like they are ‘in on the joke’ and it connects us together through shared experience.
- Join in their play. I have never especially liked playing kid games. I’m not one of those mothers who is down on the floor with the train set… until I am. Making time to spontaneously join in my children’s play has been a way to delight them for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this only works because they don’t expect me to be there (years of training, there), but it works for me!
- Best of, Worst of. Each night at dinner we ask for each other’s ‘best of/worst of/grateful for/looking forward to’. It’s been the same thing, year after year, since the kids could first talk. It’s a unique way to find out about their day and, most importantly, teaching them to be grateful and optimistic. In their world, there is always something good to look forward to.
What everyday rituals mean the most at your place?