How I’m making the most of my time as a parent

I’m the type of person many would label a “planner.”

My personality thrives on always thinking ahead. I’m constantly on the prowl for fun educational activities for our four daughters, local and not-so-local family outings, theatrical productions we can attend, and even vacation ideas.

Not being productive or having a plan in place is difficult for me. In my mind, “productivity = time well spent,” and “plan = time well managed.”

The older I get, though, the more I find myself re-evaluating this philosophy.

I’m learning that simply because I’m careful to not waste time, doesn’t mean I always steward it well. In fact, sometimes I don’t … at all.

Sometimes, as a mom, all my planning and productivity can eat away at the actual day-to-day enjoyment of my kids. When this happens, all that “productivity = time well spent” and “plan = time well managed” couldn’t be further from the truth.

What does this poor stewardship look like for me? One of the biggest weaknesses in my planner personality is that I often live too much in the future.

It’s so bad at times that my husband, Ted, has to remind me to live in the here and now, not in the six-months-from now. I don’t always like when he offers this correction, but the truth is, I need it.

I don’t want to look back ten years from now and realize that I missed the moments of my children’s lives because I was so busy planning for the next moments and the next. I love and am convicted by what Ruth Schwenk writes in the book, “Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We Need to Knock It Off, which she co-authored with Karen Ehman. Ruth says, “Parenting happens in real time. Don’t miss the moments right in front of your nose. Living in tomorrow only causes us to lose today.”

What’s my plan to make sure I don’t miss the here and now moments with my kids? Here are three fun, practical ways I’m attempting to parent in real time.

  1. Reading out loud

When it comes to bedtime stories, Ted has often been king of that domain. That is, until lately. Over the last year, as Ted has had to travel a lot, I became the one to read to the kids before tucking them in. All of us enjoyed the read-aloud time so much that we decided not to limit it to our nighttime routine. As a homeschool mom, I began to work story time into school time more and more.

And you know what I’ve found?

Reading out loud to my kids forces me to slow down and to stop rushing through our schedule and our day. As the kids and I are drawn into the story together, we share in the emotional ups and downs of the characters. We gasp in shock over plot twists and lament as our protagonist faces yet another challenge. In the process, we create shared experiences, knowledge, and memories.

  1. Impromptu dance parties

At our house, we let Pandora play throughout the day. Sometimes it’s tuned to the Francesca Battestelli channel, other times to the Michael Buble channel. One of my favorites activities of late, though, is to switch it to a kid-geared music channel, move the coffee table out of the way, and invite my girls to an impromptu dance party.

As I twirl one of my younger daughters around and around, there are no thoughts of what’s for dinner, or what time we need to get up in the morning. There’s only me and my girls dancing and giggling together.

  1. Cooking competitions … of the on-screen variety

Whether it’s Cutthroat Kitchen or Cupcake Wars, my girls and I share a love for cooking competition shows. We’ve taken to watching the shows together, each choosing our “contestant” to cheer for, and then watching to see if we picked a “winner.” It’s been a fun way for us to actively watch television together. And, like reading out loud, it causes me to slow down and create a shared experience with my kids.

Yes, I’m a planner. But this planner is hopeful that when it comes to time, I can continue to learn how to steward it better, especially when it comes to my mothering. After all, these parenting days of mine are numbered and I want to live them to the fullest.

A version of this post first appeared at AshleighSlater.com and was republished with permission.

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