Forget the mum guilt over giving your kids a jam sandwich for dinner or putting them in daycare an extra day because you need to work more, here are the things they’ll always remember and cherish from their childhood.
So pat yourself on the back, you are doing a great job!
1. Bedtime books
That special, snugly time at the end of the day before sleep takes hold of your little one is beautifully bonding. You and your child might forget the tiff you had over her not eating her carrots at dinner but she’ll always remember you reading her The Gruffalo. One day, she might even pull out her favourite childhood books to read to your grandchild – because her love for them will be etched in her heart, thanks to you.
2. Listening to them
“Wait a minute.” “Not now.” “I’m busy.” While these are often things we all say, if you give your children your attention when you know you should, you can rest assured that one day they will reflect on their childhood and say, “My mum and dad always listened to me.”
Remember too that sometimes our little ones interrupt us because they simply want to share in an experience with us, not because they always need something from us or have something particular to say.
3. Being cuddled
If you look back on your childhood and feel love and happiness, chances are it was filled with affection from your parents. Hugs are a symbol not just of love but also of reassurance, joy and protection. Give all the cuddles, all the time. Your kids will feel treasured and it will also make them loving parents some day too.
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4. Family traditions
Be it looking at the Christmas lights in the same street every year, homemade pizza night, Easter spent camping, or one on one ‘dates’ with your individual kids, family traditions will enable your child to say, “I did this or that growing up and I loved it! I want to give that to my kids someday.”
5. Eating a meal together
While dinnertime may be stressful now when your children are so little and fussy (humph), they will become more peaceful as they grow up. Give them the memory of sitting around the table together by sharing some meals, even if this only happens on the weekend when you’re both home in time for tea. Family table time will become more of a weeknight thing as your little ones start to eat later.
6. Family holidays
It can be hard to prioritise holidays when money is tight and life is busy, but your kids will always remember them. Family holidays are a time to unwind, escape routine and normality, experience something new, bond, have fun and get sandy. Your kids won’t care if you go on a cruise or go budget camping. Give them as many holidays and weekends away as you can. Plan for them and make them happen. The years will fly by.
7. Playing with them
I remember my dad giving my brother and I wheelbarrow rides around our yard and my mum painting with us. Playing with our kids can sometimes feel like a chore (not another block tower!) and sometimes we also don’t have the time, but if you can join them in an activity, they’ll pay you back in spades of love. You will also give them the memory of being a fun mum or dad who played with them, even when you had other things to do.
8. Showing up
Work may make it hard over the years to show up to everything, all the time, but if you can manage to be there for the things you know are important to your child, it will mean the world to them. Your daughter may not give two hoots about you watching her get an award at kindy, but you know she’ll cry if you aren’t at her dance concert. Be there when you can for the stuff that matters to her. She won’t forget it.
9. Being outside
Playing tip on the front lawn, swinging on swings at the park, building pretend ‘campfires’ with sticks, making mud pies, peering into rock pools, staring up at clouds, climbing trees, jumping in rain puddles and climbing rocks. These are all the things that make for happy childhood memories, and you know what? They all happen outside. Give your little ones the gift of an outdoor childhood, they’ll always remember it.
10. Family fun
Life is stressful, life is busy, but life is also precious. Embrace the little time you have all together and make it count. Go bike riding on the weekend with your littlies, fly a kite on a windy day, snuggle up together and watch a movie, have a picnic dinner on the front lawn, whatever it is, just be together and make it fun. You don’t need to go to expensive theme parks to make memories your kids will treasure. These things are enough for your loves to look back on their childhood and smile.