For close to a decade, we’ve had the same bedtime routines with our daughters. Night after night we snuggle in and whisper the familiar songs and prayers. One of the songs I still sing to my youngest is Hush, Little Anna – more commonly known as Hush, Little Baby. Hush, little Anna, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird. And if that mocking bird won’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. And if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass…
Usually I sing the words without giving them a thought, but the other night something about the lyrics felt disturbingly true. Mama guilt started to rise and familiar doubt struck deep. Do I try to buy and strive my way into my daughters’ love?
Last weekend we took our first trip to a Lego store and with the rare occasion of extra money from tax refunds, I treated the girls not only to Legos but also a surprise trip to Justice and Build-A-Bear. At the time, it felt fun and spontaneous, but I started to doubt my intentions. It’s hard to raise non-materialistic children in a hyper-materialistic world.
So what is a parent to do? On one hand, I enjoy giving my children gifts because I love them. And then I can Instagram their reaction and cross post to Facebook for good measure. But years from now, when my daughters reflect on their childhood, I want them to remember my love, not extravagant Pinterest projects and Lego gifts.
With Valentine’s Day a week away, it’s a good time to think about non-purchase, non-Pinterest ways to show love to my girls and other children in my life. Here are 10 simple ideas for any age that only require good old fashioned time and love.
- Tell a story.
Storytelling is a universal love language. Children especially love true stories about your own childhood. Do yourself a favor and take a trip back in time. What did you love as a child? When did you get in trouble? Who were your friends? Once the gears start turning, you’ll be surprised at how much you remember. Your children will cherish the insight into your life.
- Take a night walk.
Night walks are simply magical. Give your kids a flashlight and explore your neighborhood as the sun begins to set. With God’s artwork painting the sky, twilight will turn to dusk and then to dark. Don’t be surprised if your independent kiddos suddenly want to hang close and hold your hand when the familiar world turns quiet and mysterious.
- Lay on the ground and look at the stars.
Even in cold weather, star gazing is fun. Lay down the blankets, grab a few pillows, and see who can find the first star. Gazing at the heavens reminds us of our smallness and the majesty of creation. No movie or video game can compare.
- Scratch a back.
One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on a church pew with my grandmother as she sang the hymns and gently scratched my arm. My girls love to have their back scratched. Who doesn’t? It reduces anxiety and releases feel-good hormones. Form a family back scratching line. Even the pets will want to take part.
- Tuck them in.
Bedtime is so important. Often barriers come down and children become more willing to talk. Something as simple as sitting on their bed for 5 minutes and playing with their hair makes for a relaxing end to the day.
- Ask questions and Just. Listen.
I admit that I struggle with this one. I always feel like I have to say something or make some observation. Like all of us, children just want to know they’ve been heard. Encouraging, open body language goes a long way. Often words aren’t even necessary. Put down the phone, look into their eyes, and listen with your heart. Your kids will come alive with sincere attention and interest.
- Write a note and hide it in their book bag or lunch box.
The goal of this one is not to embarrass your kids, so put the note someplace where only they will see it. My husband recently put an encouraging sticky note on my steering wheel, and I left it there ever since. Small reminders of love pay dividends well into the future.
- Play a game of war.
Kids of all ages can play war. There’s something about the light-hearted competition of a simple card game. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and your kids will love it (especially if they win).
- Send a love text. Just because.
If you’re like me, texting has become a primary method of communication. Remember to send plenty of love texts along with the others. The sillier, the better. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile.
- Remind them that you love them NOT for what they do, but for who they are.
We live in a performance culture where approval and praise are frequently mistaken for love. Instead of focusing on the outcome of your child’s efforts, focus on the process. Let them know that you love watching them play the piano, or catch the football, or paint the canvas. They need to know you love them just as they are without any conditions of achieving success.
With a bit of balance, we can incorporate retro parenting along side the conveniences of the day. I believe our children will thank us!
Post originally published by Laura Fleetwood on SeekingTheStill.com.
What happens when a carefully crafted life crumbles? Read Laura’s story.