When my twins were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to do mommy-kid activities. I wanted to fingerpaint, cook, play Memory and Candyland, snuggle and read for hours, and make happy, rosy memories with my boys.
When they were around 2 years old, inspired by the success of my mommy friends and the parenting blogs I adored, I excitedly laid out paper and paints, prepared elaborate craft projects, bought games, and borrowed books from the library. We were going to have FUN and be happy and laugh and I would take pictures and make photo albums of my happy kids and my happy motherhood.
Here’s what really happened:
The paints were a mess. The paper got soaked and ripped. The colors were mixed into a color that resembled a really bad poopy diaper. The art project took longer to clean up than the boys spent "painting."
My boys played “Ants in My Pants” instead of moving their gingerbread men through Candyland. The colored cards flew all over the living room, joining the tiny demon-cherries from “Hi-Ho! Cherrio!” The homemade Memory cards were ripped and crumpled.
Cooking was a circus. Cups of flour were dumped on the counter instead of in the bowl. Eggs slipped and smashed on the floor. And one of my sons was so afraid of the hand-mixer that he ran screaming out of the room before it was even turned on.
There was no snuggling and reading for hours. My two year olds could barely sit still for one picture book. “Green Eggs and Ham”? WAY too long! I learned to flip through books at the library and throw back the ones that had more than 15 pages or 10 words per page.
I was discouraged, depressed even. I was failing at Mommyhood. Most days I thought, “Well, that was a fun 5 minutes. What am I going to do for the rest of the day? I guess I could start by cleaning up this mess.”
One day we made snakes with beads for 3 minutes. Then I cleaned up beads for the next 3 months.
I wanted to make those special memories with my kids but every activity was either a failure or over before I could even snap a picture.
Plus I was going nuts and yelling things like “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! We are GOING to have FUN, OK???”
I was a real fun mom.
I eventually gave up. I lowered my expectations for fun mommyhood.
We didn’t do messy craft projects anymore. I threw “Hi-Ho Cherrio” and the memory cards in the trash. I made cookies while my boys napped. We read “The Foot Book” instead of “Green Eggs and Ham.”
And this was the best thing I could have ever done.
I discovered that the things I liked to do were not the things that my kids liked to do. The happy memories I had of coloring, playing board games, cooking sweets and treats, and reading on the couch with my mom for hours were not the same things that made my boys happy.
I had to accept that they loved running and wrestling, not sitting still playing board games.
I swallowed the fact that they weren’t interested in coloring or “making things.” And I realized that any craft that took longer to prepare or clean up than it did to make and play with was way overrated.
I still made them sit and read with me but we would read one board book instead of three picture books.
And when I did tackle that Pinterest Project from my “Fun Activities for Kids!” board, I learned to say “Well, that was fun!” after 3.5 minutes and really mean it.
Most importantly, I discovered that my kids are different from me and that is ok. And I learned that the best memories I could make with my children was not “doing things” together: it was seeing my boys happy, grins that lasted for seconds, not the “activities” that lasted for hours.