When we were preparing to move last summer, I unearthed a whole stack of family-oriented magazines from several years back. In more recent years I had marked and torn out what I was interested in (or checked and bookmarked the article online) and then passed it on to a friend, but this stack must have accumulated and then been forgotten before I started doing that.
I brought them with us to look through as I had time and just got to them last week. Many had turned-down corners noting something I wanted to consider doing with my own sons. I started looking at the dates of the magazines: many were from the time my youngest was in his toddler to preschool to early elementary years.
At first I started to kick myself and feel really guilty that I had never done all these neat activities with my children.
But then, I thought, “Now, wait just a minute!” We did do lots of things together:
We sat on the floor and made Lego creations.
We read books. Lots and lots of books. We made regular trips to the library and every library day afternoon was spent in happy reading all the new treasures.
We built tracks and loops for Hot Wheels cars.
We did puzzles.
We colored and painted.
We made various Play-Dough creations.
We had a multitude of Little People sets, thanks to my mom, and played seemingly endless scenarios with them.
We played untold rounds of a game called something like Memory Match (like Concentration from my childhood), Hi Ho Cheerio, Sorry, Candyland, and other games.
We took walks.
We went to the park.
We visited friends.
We played in the sandbox.
We blew bubbles.
We went to the zoo.
Even going to the grocery store was considered fun at certain ages.
We may not have done some of those neat unique activities in the magazines, but we did a lot of fun things and spent a lot of time together. I’ve thought to myself that I hoped that my lack of keeping up with baby books as I would have liked was due to my actually spending time with my kids.
Were those magazines a waste, then? I don’t think so. I did use some ideas over the years, but even the ones I missed using had a positive influence. Just like visiting a craft store or craft show or craft blogs sparks my own creative juices even if I never do the specific crafts I see, I think family magazines and idea books and these days mommy blogs can inspire my own goals with my family. But they need to be kept as an inspiration, a creativity-sparker, a supplement to our own real lives, not a burden, a guilt-producer, a competition against other moms and kids, an addition to an already crowded schedule.
As long as we’re spending both quality time and quantities of time together, nourishing our relationships, learning and growing, we don’t have to worry that we’re not keeping up with whatever everyone else does. Attentive time together is what matters most.