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Things Kids Wish Their Moms Knew

I've been an observer of children since I was a child myself. As the youngest of four, I always wished for a baby brother or sister that I could nurture and guide. Dolls and Barbies never really interested me much at all. I wasn't into imagining being a big sister or a mom - I wanted to be the real thing. But since my own parents were quite certain no adorable little siblings were in my future, I instead got creative and latched on to other opportunities to spend time with kiddos younger than me.

I sought out playdates with my neighbors who had little brothers and sisters. Then I'd tag along with my cousin, who was so very lucky to have the cutest nieces and nephews before we were even preteens. Boy, was I jealous! As soon as I was old enough, I was volunteering in the church nursery, Sunday school, and at Vacation Bible School during the summer. Formal babysitting was my next significant milestone, and I agreed to as many jobs as I could handle all throughout middle and high school, often declining fun evenings out with my teenage friends because I honestly preferred to hang out with little kids instead - eating pizza, playing boardgames, hiding and seeking, enjoying favorite cartoon movies, and reading beloved stories before tucking them into bed (sometimes multiple times) with "just a little sip" of water, blankies, and stuffies. No teenager drama, no posing, no fear of rejection or judgment from these little humans. It was a pretty sweet deal, and the benefit was mutual. Even in college I managed to connect with local families through school and church and provide childcare on a regular basis.

It's no wonder I ended up graduating with a teaching degree in elementary education, working at daycares and summer camps in the off-months, and landed a job here in Spotsylvania County teaching 5th grade. I already had a few years of coaching middle and high school field hockey at this point, and continued coaching teens for a total of 16 years. Then on to finally become a mom myself in 2010, 2011, and 2014. Despite my late entry into motherhood (I was an ancient 41 years old when my last was born), it was so worth the wait! And I know that all those years building relationships with children, teens, and young adults prepared me for this new adventure - the one I had been so eagerly awaiting. Here are some of the things I've learned along the way:

  1. Children need to eat real food at least 80 percent of the time. As our world becomes increasingly more toxic, investing in a whole foods diet for our kids is one of the few stressors we can actually control, to a large degree. Every.single.cell that makes up your child's body is formed from the food he or she eats. Let that sink in. When kids are constantly splurging with packaged foods, fast food, cereal, cookies/cakes/crackers, over-the-top ice cream sundaes (you should see the outrageous concoctions made at a place near us...Lord, help us!), sodas and other sugary beverages, you can be assured that their gut is slowly - or not so slowly - being destroyed. And with impaired gut function comes all the associated risk factors for chronic skin and dental complications, learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and metabolic diseases of all kinds - to include autoimmunity and cancer and everything in between. Certainly there can be a place for "fun foods," but given the downward trend of our nation's health, I prefer to err on the side of caution when allowing my kids to indulge in this junky fare. They might play off the calories, but they cannot escape the effects of the toxicity. Play now, pay later. Don't be deceived. We always reap what we sow.

  2. Children need fresh air, authentic relationships, and outdoor activity more than they need electronics. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard a parent say, "Ugh, I regret giving him that iPad for Christmas. We fight over it constantly now. It's all he wants to do!" Or similarly, "I wish I had waited to give her a cell phone. I feel like she's addicted to it and I'm always policing how she's using it." And in my mind I'm thinking, Then take the thing away, for goodness sakes! You're the parent! Knowing how I often struggle managing my own screen time, I can't imagine expecting any of my kids to shoulder that responsibility with any kind of success. To me it just doesn't even seem fair, much less prudent. Plus the addictive use of technology can lead to poor vision, cognitive dysfunction, and antisocial behavior. (Basement gaming, anyone?) Personally, I would rather face the temporary outburst of anger for taking away a device than continue going down the same dead-end path that is benefiting no one. Our kids are counting on us to be wiser than they are persistent.

  3. Children don't care how far you can run, how much money you earn, how smooth your skin is, how muscular you are, or what size jeans you wear. More than anything, they want a mom who is grounded, steady, dependable, calm, patient, caring, fun-loving, content, at peace, and physically and emotionally well. I was reminded of this last week when one of my kids said, "Gee, mom - it's seems like you're always stressed out lately." And I knew he was right. My plate was full and my fuse was short. Kids sense our overwhelm and it leads to their own imbalance and insecurity. My colleague, Mary Vogt, NTP, HTMAP, explains this truth so well, " rely on you for their sense of safety and support. So if you are not regulated, your kids won't be either. Trust me, you can't hide your trauma...they can see it. This is where it gets hard. Taking the time to work on your own emotional health in order to effectively help your child." She goes on to explain that the heart of nervous system regulation is a sense of safety and support, and our children receive this secure foundation primarily from their parents. I couldn't agree more! In fact, this is why one of the mantras I live by is, "Heal the mom, heal the family, change the world." Moms, we hold such a critical role in the lives of our children! If you feel like you've tried everything to help them heal, consider taking a look inward. You might just find the answer there.

  4. Children need to have meaningful work daily. At our house this includes regular tasks like kitchen duty (setting and clearing the table, emptying and filling the dishwasher, taking out the compost bucket, sweeping the floor), pet care (feeding, watering, exercising, poop cleanup, and habitat safety checks), and weekend household chores like dusting, vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, filling toilet paper rolls, taking care of laundry, and emptying the trash. Now that we've added my dad to our household, the kids also help with whatever needs Grandpa has (like making his coffee, bringing him the newspaper, and running errands for him up and down the stairs). And though they might not admit it, they love it! Feeling useful leads to a sense of purpose, confidence, and pride in a job well done. Everybody wants to experience the joys of contributing to the family effort!

  5. Children need a firm foundation of faith in a God who knows them, loves them, and has a plan for their lives. With so many young people questioning their own identify, value, and reason for living, it's becoming painfully apparent how far our country has strayed from our Christian heritage. I've certainly made my share of mistakes and wrong turns in my 51 years, but my faith in God has always brought me back to solid footing and a confidence that He always works things out for my ultimate good and His glory. It hurts my heart to think of all the children who don't have this belief anchoring them during difficult times. Kids are aimless, angry, and insecure without a biblical foundation of faith, and we only need to look around to see evidence of this truth.

What else would you add to the list? How else can we help our children thrive in this world, rather than just get by? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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