Playwright George Bernard Shaw once said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Luckily for us, as parents, our children present us with opportunities to play and see things through their itty-bitty lenses. Here are some child-like things that you should be doing, too.
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Put the phone down
First off, let’s repent and acknowledge that we’ve all been guilty of scrolling when we shouldn’t. You’re not alone. According to Psychology Today, “In a large international study of six thousand 8- to 13-year-olds, 32 percent reported feeling ‘unimportant’ when their parents use their cellphones during meals, conversations, or other family times. The children reported competing with technology for their parents’ attention. Over half of the children in the study said their parents spend too much time on their phones.”
It sounds bleak, but go forth and sin no more. Find dedicated pockets of time where you transform into a no-phone-zone and can be intentional with your family. Maybe that’s the dinner table, or the playground, or in the car (especially if you want to set a good example for kids approaching driving age). Little kids don’t possess the kind of separation anxiety from their phones that we do. They don’t spend time thinking about the next reel they need to make or whether the response to their super important email has landed in their inbox yet.
What they do possess is a close attunement to their parents’ attention, and just as the kids in the study noticed when their parents picked up their phones, they’ll notice when you put them down, too. That response to the super important email will still be there when you pick the phone back up (or maybe it won’t, but that’s not something you can control, anyway).
You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes with a 4-year-old to hear the question “Why?” multiple times. Rarely are they satisfied with a simple answer to a question and want to dig deeper until they either extract the meaning of life out of you or you give up and refuse to answer any more “why” questions. Yet as adults, we’ll often accept things as fact without ever asking “why?” when we really should.
Adults get rigid in their thinking and behavior the older they get. We bemoan our parents’ generation and their parents’ generation for being stuck in their ways, without acknowledging that we’re often guilty of the same, and keep repeating a behavior just because that’s how we’ve always done it. By not routinely questioning and evaluating why we are doing things a certain way and whether the way we’re doing them is working for us, we set ourselves up to get stuck in a rut that contributes to our unhappiness.
Ask yourself: Why am I killing myself staying up late to pack everyone’s nutritious lunches of Pinterest-worthy animal-shaped sandwiches and freshly chopped fruits and veggies when they’d be just as happy eating hot lunch at school? Why am I enforcing homework time immediately after school on Friday when all that really matters is that it gets done before school on Monday? Why am I cutting sugar out of my diet when I know indulging my sweet tooth, even just a little bit, makes me a happier mom?
It’s too hot to play outside and your kids won’t stop fighting because they’ve been cooped up with only each other for company while you’re trying to coherently take work calls. Everyone is cranky and all you want to do is scream; and you can, but Beyoncé might offer everyone a better way forward. Stop everything, grab the kids, and mandate a child-like dance party. Whether it’s 30 seconds or 30 songs, choreographer and studio director Kristin Sudeikis says “[b]y consciously putting your body in motion, you’re offering yourself a 360-degree physiological reset, which can be cathartic, deeply transforming, and healing.”
According to The Joy of Movement author and health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD: “When you begin moving, you immediately release the brain chemicals dopamine, adrenaline, and endorphins, causing a powerful and lasting effect I call ‘energized optimism’.” In short, it’s like a big reset button for both your body and your mind. Best of all, you don’t have to be any good at it for you and your kids to reap the benefits. As far as they’re concerned, you might as well be Alvin Ailey. They just want to dance with YOU. You can even still scream if the song lyrics allow for it.
Wear the swimsuit
The onset of summer always comes with ambivalence about rocking a swimsuit. We’re hardly the first ones to say it, but it bears repeating (and repeating, and repeating, until you believe it). Your kids don’t care about how you look in your bathing suit – your stretch marks, your thigh gap (or lack thereof), those stubborn five (or in my case, ten) pounds you just can’t seem to shake – they don’t care about any of that. What they do care about is whether their mom gets in the water with them and splashes around, or whether she hides under an umbrella in a floor-length coverup.
You only get so many pool days and beach visits with your kids; don’t waste them on your own insecurity… especially if you have girls. According to counselor and author Laura Choate Ed.D., LPC, “our self-derogatory comments are not just hurting ourselves but our daughters as well. It is damaging to girls when they hear their moms criticize their own bodies.” So instead of self-deprecating, rock the mummy-tummy and look at through the lens of a more awesome cannonball. And remember that no matter how much cellulite you have, joy looks sexy on everyone.
On this “Be a Kid Again Day,” remember child-like things YOU should be doing, too!