Fruit Loops or Cheerios

The most valuable resource we have as parents is time. Yet, I don’t think we truly appreciate its value.

From the moment I wake to the moment I fall into bed at night, I don’t stop moving. I’m sure I’m not alone. Most young families struggle with packing it all in within a limited window.

At times you feel desperate, wondering to yourself, what if I just had 20 more minutes without the kids pulling at my shirt or demanding more, more, more, of me. On a nightly basis, my supper is interrupted with minor requests and major messes. My 6-year-old needs more milk, my 2-year-old needs more ketchup. We all need new napkins because the youngest decided to grab them all and throw them to the floor with his peas, ketchup and french fries. My kindergartner lets the salt shaker slip out of his hand and salt goes everywhere. Now my food is cold, and a trip to the microwave is necessary. My husband just eats his cold.

Sounds like a sad story, right? It isn’t really. I don’t mind serving my kids. As they grow they will be able to do more and more for themselves and need me to get up from the supper table less and less.

Everyone says, don’t worry about the dishes, the laundry, the crushed Fruit Loops on the floor. (Yes, I opted for rainbow-colored carpet, instead of the beige, Cheerio-colored kind.)

The reality is we still have to do these things, to keep our house running, functional. I feel like I have our lives somewhat under control by keeping the sinks empty and the clothes folded. Okay, halfway folded. (I mean, what’s the use when your 2-year-old pulls all the clothes out of the drawers anyway? At least they’re clean.)

But because so much energy is spent simply caring for our family’s basic needs, the remaining time becomes so much more valuable. We’re left wondering, how do we make the most of what’s left?

Limiting what we choose to do and thoughtfully considering the effect our decisions ultimately have on our family helps alleviate some of the pressure. Becoming selfish is not a bad thing in this case.

We cannot do all things for all people, be at all places at once and make every single person we care about happy. So, we start with us. Caring for our little four-member family first may seem selfish, but it’s what we’re meant to do, no guilt allowed.

A huge part of me desperately wants my kids to experience everything: to sit on Santa’s lap, to hunt Easter eggs at every event in town. But what happens is they are scared of Santa and they have so many eggs we can’t see the living room floor when it’s over.

Considering the value these activities add to our lives beforehand saves not only time, but frustration as well. It’s so difficult to choose less when the world screams more. Why would people be so consumed by these things if they weren’t important?

Tradition plays a role as well. If our parents thought it was important to attend a family reunion, to always gather at Grandma’s on Christmas Eve, to be a chaperone on our school field trips, then shouldn’t we also do those things?

The answer, of course, is no. One size doesn’t fit all, even when the “sizes” are related. It’s no mystery traditions are hard to break. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be broken. And because outwardly one family seems to function well by conforming to this non-stop world, it doesn’t mean on the inside they have it all together.

Take the pressure away: You don’t have to sign your kid up for every sport, attend every holiday activity offered or make it to every family event. The time it takes to stop and discuss the consequences of such activities is well worth the effort. Let the guilt disappear. Your family’s time together, the relationships that need nurturing, are more important than eating fast food in the car on the way to (you fill in the blank).

Of course I want my kids to choose from a rainbow of activities, but they must choose. Fruit Loops or Cheerios, not both at the same time.

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