A few days ago, I was getting my two-and-a-half-year-old out of the tub, when he asked, “Mom, what’s ‘complicated’ mean?” I explained to him that “complicated” means taking something that should be simple and making it really hard. You see, I knew the reason he was asking, and it is because I am always saying to him and his brother, “You guys are making this way more complicated than it needs to be.”

That same week, my husband and I were talking about how hectic our life seems right now. We were trying to decide how much of the hectic-ness was unavoidable, and how much we could work to minimize. We decided that the theme of the rest of the year for us needed to be “Simplify.”

These conversations with my husband and my little son got me thinking. I have this vision of how I want our life — and specifically my kids’ childhood– to be, but I think I’m missing the mark somehow. I don’t exactly know how to put into words this vision I have,  but it’s something like “simple”…”back to the basics”…”old-fashioned”…”the way childhood was meant to be.” Something like that. But like I said, I’m missing the mark.

I think, perhaps, I am the one who is “making this way more complicated than it needs to be.”

So I decided to lay out a vision “statement” (who are we kidding? I’m way too long-winded to condense this to just a “statement”), and here is what I came up with:

I want my children’s childhood to be free from adult concerns. Children don’t need to be burdened with TOO MUCH knowledge of politics, world news, viruses, bills, family dysfunction, hate crimes or test scores.

I want their childhood to feel safe, secure, and consistent. Life is infinitely simpler for everyone if they can count on SOME things to stay the same. Obviously not everything can. But surely there are things that are able to remain consistent. For example, I would like to become better at simply saying,  “These are the rules of our house. They always stay the same. The punishment for not abiding by the rules remains the same. We don’t change it up. We don’t say it fifty million times. It is what it is, and it’s always the same.”

I want their childhood to be exhausting, in a good way. Kids should have the time and opportunity to play HARD — every day, with all of their might. And then be required to work hard, too. Chores. Pitching in around the house. Why should they not have to contribute to the household running smoothly? It’s quite SIMPLE, really. You live here, you help out.

I want their childhood to be slower-paced. Why do we have to participate in so many activities and birthday parties and errands and programs and meetings? My children are happy just staying home and playing with a cardboard box. No, I’m serious. I know people say that expression, and they usually just mean kids are easily occupied and don’t need fancy toys, but my kids ACTUALLY spent an hour playing with a cardboard box in the driveway the other day. Can we not just limit all the many places we NEED to go, and instead,  just stay home and play with cardboard?

I want their childhood to be spent appreciating SIMPLE wonders. Why am I so compelled to fill my children’s bedrooms and playroom up with expensive and elaborate toys? Honestly, I don’t think they appreciate or enjoy more than maybe two toys. Total. And the two they enjoy aren’t even the ones that cost the most money. Why do I complicate my life so much by trying unsuccessfully to jam hundreds of junky toys into twenty or so various boxes and crates, yelling at my children all the while? Why do they even have all of these things to begin with? Wouldn’t life be more SIMPLE if they each just had a handful of toys that they really loved and valued enough to take care of?

I want their childhood to be spent outside. Messy. No structure, no planned out activity. Just throw ’em outside and let them run and play and be dirty. Why do they need the complication of Netflix and Apple TV and iPads and XBox? Eventually those things are going to frustrate them by breaking or malfunctioning or moving more slowly than their poor little spoiled selves are accustomed to. Not even to mention the fact that us parents have to hover over them, monitoring and censoring and worrying that they might, I don’t know, type “Ninja Turtle” into the Google search bar, and four girls wearing thongs with Ninja Turtle shells painted on their back are going to pop up (yeah, that happened). Grass and trees and rocks and dirt don’t malfunction, move slowly, or provide you with surprise pornographic images. Just go outside!

I want their childhood to be spent learning, but I’m not necessarily sure by sitting still in a classroom for eight hours every single day. Wouldn’t it be more simple for them to learn by doing and exploring and visiting and imagining and creating, and not so much by sitting still at a table?

I want their childhood to be loud, and full of laughter. Why do my husband and I spend so much time “sssshh-ing” them? Telling them to talk more quietly and play less crazy? Wouldn’t it be more simple to just quit fighting that same battle, and instead recognize that they are boys, that is the way they are wired, and then embrace the chaos?

I want their childhood to be unburdened by adult emotions. They have their whole life to navigate their way through stress, anger, and frustration. They don’t need to navigate their way through mine, now.

I want their childhood to be spent learning the basics. How to cook. How to clean. How to interact properly and respectfully with people. We spend a lot of time on a whole flurry of other activity, but how much time are we spending just doing THAT? Staying at home, allowing our kids to live life alongside of us, learning the very basics of life? Not a lot.

I want their childhood to be spent enjoying life, boldly, without a nervous, anxious, worrisome mama on the sidelines, holding them back. Climb as high as you want in the trees. Eat the damn popsicle with the artificial color and flavoring, the very thought of which has stressed me out for the last six years. Just live large, and I will quit reading articles online that tell me why everything I do is hazardous.

Basically, I want my children’s lives to be so SIMPLE, that they just unlearn the word “complicated”.

So join me, in raising sugary Kool-Aid-filled cups in a toast, and lets “cheers” to childhood…may it be simple.


Hayley Hengst
Hello AM readers! I'm Hayley. Stay-at-home mom to three boys/angels/tyrants (primarily tyrants). Most days, I am very content in that role. Other days, well, you know how it goes. I absolutely love writing for Austin Moms Blog. I also love: books, bubble baths, Mexican food, porch swings, and traveling. I hate: the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door, on time, with all three of my kids. Seriously, I just kind of give up. You can read more about my crazy crew at!


  1. Like a breath of fresh air Hayley, I totally agree with you.
    I think I need a periodic reminder of this message, to keep me on track- in the journey to re- create my boys’ (4 and 7) childhood into SIMPLICITY.
    We don’t have much time left!!! They grow up sooo fast.

  2. You captured my sentiments exactly. My boys have grown up so fast that I feel an urgency to make drastic changes now before I miss the chance. Thank you so much!

  3. I could not agree more. Thank you! This is wonderful. I keep thinking – I’ve tried hard to keep their childhood simple, and yet there’s still so much rushing, too much tension, not enough space – so obviously I need to make even more changes. As it is I think my kids do fewer activities than almost anyone we know, but we have to cut back even more drastically to allow for those cardboard-box afternoons. Thank you.


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