I’ve never been good at gardening. Taking care of plants does not come naturally to me. What I really want is someone who understands the love language of nature to teach me what to do to keep my plants and flowers not just alive, but flourishing.
It is easy to think that motherhood is like caring for a garden and simply making sure our kids have what they need to stay healthy, clean, and fed. We exhaust ourselves meal planning, scheduling, homework helping, carpooling, cleaning and making sure we won’t run out of diapers before our next grocery run. We have lists and to-do’s and need-to’s and sometimes it can feel like just keeping our kids alive is overwhelming enough!
But how can we create a family that doesn’t just survive, but flourish?
Let me break it down as simply as I can.
Our children have two basic needs: milk and honey.
The “milk” refers to the basic needs of a child: food, drink, general hygiene, clothes, rest.
The “honey” refers to the sweetness of life, the treasured things that make life enjoyable, meaningful and special. The honey is the seed of oneness that when planted blooms into something altogether lovely. The honey is what memories are made of and where bonding begins.
Just like a garden…oneness, togetherness, bonding and relationship in a family doesn’t just happen, it is cultivated. It takes intention, pursuit, effort and patience.
I want to pass along some ideas for how to not just focus on the “milk” but how to make “honey” and create sweetness in your home.
- One-on-one time: We have a large family, so this may matter much more to me than to those of you who currently have one child. Regardless of family size, the idea is the same. Spending 5-10 minutes of intentional one-on-one time with just one child can lift the most downcast spirit, restore the most broken relationship, and can soften the most angry heart.
Ex: take a short walk, sit on a curb in front of your house, take just one to the grocery store with you, pick some flowers together, put the other children to bed and keep one up a little bit later.
- Don’t GOSSIP!: Be careful to hold your tongue on the negative, and be sure to let it loose often with the positive. As parents we must never ever speak poorly about our children. You can crush not only a spirit but kill the relationship with criticism, sarcasm, and ridicule. I know it’s easy to call it “relating,” or label it as “asking for help,” but may we never speak of our children in a damaging or belittling way. Guard your words carefully. Guard how you tell stories to other people. Instead, choose ways to speak well of them, not only outside of the home but inside as well. Speak in a way that if overheard they would feel a sense of encouragement, pride, trust, love, and affection.
Ex: If someone else tells a story and asks if you can relate with your own kids, respond in a way that keeps the focus on you, rather than exposing your child.”Yes, I can relate to that, but I know that when my kids behave that way I can really overreact.” or “Kate, that is so kind of you! Thank you for loving your brothers like that.” or “Corban is the BEST sharer! It melts my heart to see how generous he can be with his toys.”
- Get silly: Don’t be afraid to put on some music and have a few dance parties. My kids love when I get on the floor and play “puppies” with them. Games like hide and seek or twister that get everyone involved can be so much fun! Letting them see you loosen up will be memories they’ll remember and talk about for a very, very long time! Trust me!
- Let them help: I love to build, paint, and craft. Bringing my kids into those things that I love does slow it down for me, but it is so worth it. My two year old even knows how to bang real nails with a real hammer into a real piece of wood! He also knows how to empty the dishwasher and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Letting (notice I didn’t say making) them help is a joy for them. Including them in a task or a project and taking the time to slowly teach creates amazing memories AND a helpful member of the family!
- Storytelling: Make up fairy tales and let them choose their own adventure. Did anyone else read “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid? My family LOVED those! Begin with a description of that particular child and give them a pretend setting. And then let them choose their own adventure. When they stop talking, pick up where they left off and take the story to the next part of the plot. Stop when you think they could carry it again…and keep the adventures going!
Ex: “There once was a little blonde haired girl who had blue eyes, a button nose, and loved unicorns. One day she decided to put on her best fairy princess dress to go out to hunt for a unicorn…”
- Speak softly: Your tone matters and, yes, the volume does too. But when I say “softly” I am not talking about refraining from being firm or requiring obedience. What I do mean is speak to them in ways that you would desire to be spoken to. Speak to your kids in a way that is loving, gentle, and kind. Be mindful that your tone does not give the impression that they are in your way or that you could be doing something more important.
- Read to them often: Yes, reading books like Curious George or Winnie the Poo are great. Reading any book to your child is a win. But when talking about the “honey” of life, make an effort to pick books that are of good quality, that are written well, that really allow the kids’ minds to run rampant with imagination, that allow them to dive head on into the story as if they know the characters themselves.
- Create nicknames: I once heard someone say that we only create nicknames for people that we love or people that we hate. And I think it’s true! I have a nickname for each one of my kids and it’s because they are my favorite people on the planet. Coming up with a special name, letting the child know the meaning behind it, and using it often can be such a meaningful thing. I find that when I call their nickname rather than their real name the response is not only quicker, but often times much more open to what I have to say.
- Enjoy the frivolous: Create opportunities to get out the nice tea set or the fine china. Look for ways to spoil and enjoy. Create opportunities for the extraordinary. Ex: Decorating the house in a special way, or get dressed up and going on a family date together, plan a big trip or an unexpected trip to the toy store.
- Say yes instead of no: I know, as parents we have to say “no” a lot. But look for opportunities to say “yes” as well. Whether it be an extra snack, or that toy they went crazy for at Target, or a picnic in the living room, or a later bedtime for tonight, surprise them with a “yes” every now and then!
- Enjoy the ordinary: Let’s admit it, most of the time as mothers our days look the exact same. The majority is the mundane. The routine is the normal. Make the “regular” become the “honey” as you enjoy the little things and create fun from the simple.
Ex: the tickle monster is going to grab their legs before they can get into their car seat, pretend to sit on them when they’re in a chair, accidentally bump into them just to be able to steal a hug…
- Give grace: Yes to the kids, but let’s start with ourselves on this one. Sweet momma, sometimes we need to set aside the “milk” in order to give our kids the “honey.” The laundry can wait another day. Our kids need the “honey,” but… let’s be honest… we do too!
This post originally appeared on MegMarieWallace.com and was republished with permission