children at play

How I lowered my expectations for "Fun" Mommy-hood

When my twins were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to do mommy-kid activities. I wanted to finger paint, 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.
This was supposed to be a "Two hours of FUN" box! not "10 minutes and I'm done" box
I was discouraged, depressed even. I was failing at Mommy-hood. 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.”
We made snakes with beads for 3 minutes one day. 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 Mommy-hood.
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 Pintrest Project from my “Fun Activities for Kids!” board, I learned to say “Well, that was fun!” after 3.5 minutes and really mean it.
So glad I have this picture because I think this is the only time they wore these adorable pirate costumes 
 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.

Trying Out a Toy Rotation

Happy December, Readers! Too often this month can become a frantic checklist of holiday planning, last minute shopping (or crafting), readying the house for guests, packing for travel, stressful eating and general busyness. Let's be honest, that is not a recipe for a calm and happy parent. This month we asked our writers to share some of their holiday plans, their reflections on the past year and their thoughts and goals for 2013. As 2012 closes, we are so thankful for the wonderful things that have happened at The Motherhood Collective over the past months. We wish you all a very happy and fulfilling end to your year. ~TMC-- A couple of months ago I noticed that my two sons, 18 months and 3 years, would go to their play area, dump all their toys into a large pile and then wander around the house looking for something to do. While they enjoyed dumping all the toys out of their boxes, it seemed to me that the pile then overwhelmed them. They couldn’t see the individual toys and couldn’t figure out what to play with. Likewise, it was difficult for them to put their own toys away, because, again, the pile was overwhelming.

I had heard of toy rotations before and have friends that do it, but I never thought it was for us. I didn’t think we had so many toys to warrant a toy rotation. But after many days of toy piles and bored children, I decided to give it a try.

After the kids had gone to bed, I went through all their toys and arranged them into categories. I decided on a few rough categories: thinking/logic (like puzzles and games), pretend play (toy food, cell phones, wallet, broom, etc), and toys that foster motor skills and active play (blocks, cars, balls, train set). My goal was to have 10 total toys out at a time. I chose a few things to stay out all the time. For me these were a set of blocks, a train set, and some accessories to our toy kitchen. I picked 2-3 toys from each category to be out at a time. I included groups of toys as “one” toy—so a small collection of cars or airplanes or a small box of pretend items (wallet, cellphone, broom) counted as one.

As I was categorizing I also noticed toys we had out that were either no longer played with (like baby toys) or that I didn’t like. I set these toys aside and either donated them or packed them up.

We ended up only having enough toys for two full rotations with a few extra items to mix things up a bit. Honestly, I was skeptical as to whether my kids would take to it or not. The first thing I noticed was that my children did not notice the missing toys. The second thing I noticed was that my children did not dump all the toys in a pile, but actually played with them! It was honestly surprising. After about a week, they were ready for a switch. But the longer we’ve been doing the rotation, they longer they seem to be happy with a set. I just switched toys today for the first time in two or three weeks. Another benefit I’ve seen is that I play with them more! I’m also less overwhelmed by the toys and am more likely to want to sit down and play with them (WITH the children!).

There are many blog posts on the internet about toy rotations, so you can get a lot of different ideas that might work for your family. I would encourage you to give it a try and see if it doesn’t bring a new perspective into your house. If it doesn’t, you can always go back!