Awhile back I posted a photo of my kids swinging in front of our home and someone commented, "Such simplicity, sign me up for it!" I cherished that comment because simplicity is what it's all about for me. It's what I strive for.
You're probably thinking though that there's no way you can do that or even that I'm a little crazy. What is simple about three kids ages 5 and under? Well not much if we're being totally honest here, but there are ways around it and ways to strive for simplicity and to achieve it.
Just like many parents, we have goals and dreams for our children. We want them to dance, play sports, do Boy Scouts and all of those fun things that we did growing up (if they want to of course). When I reflect back on my childhood I remember my days of dancing and 4-H club and Beta meetings. Those things were great and to this day I still dance and teach others dance now, a passion that will never cease for me.
But when I look back at my years growing up, the things that so often stick out to me as pure pleasure are truly the simpler things. The evenings of riding bikes and ATVs around the neighborhood with my friends until the sun went down. The evenings of eating dinner as a family and then watching a movie, or Nick at Nite, with my mom until bed time. I remember the camping trips in the woods, not at amusement parks, but deep in the woods where you played outside all day and was lucky if the antenna caught PBS in the camper during a rainstorm.
I remember swinging late in the evenings and watching the sky turn pink while my parents worked in the yard. I remember swimming in our pool and my mom baking brownies and making lemonade for my friends and I. I remember my mama making a homemade dinner nearly every night of the week and us eating it together.
For some of us and our families, these things are every day occurrences. For others it's only on occasions or rare. Is there a right or a wrong way here? Of course not. But I know what sort of memories and life I want my children to reflect back on, and that is that life was simple, wild and free.
As I move forward into my first year of a school age child, here's the guidelines I want to try and follow as we navigate life ahead while still striving for simplicity.
- Limit extra curricular. This is going to be harder for my husband than it will be for me, but I do firmly believe that children should be engaged and active. It helps create more self discipline and ignites passions in children, however if every night is some sort of activity, I don't feel that is healthy. Young children need to be free, they need to get bored and they need to play. I know this can become debatable among parents, but for me, free nights at home are treasures.
- Eat together daily. While sometimes extra curricular may interfere, strive to do this as often as possible. If week nights are somewhat crazy, make it a point to have Friday pizza nights and Sunday home cooked meals; the same goes for breakfast in our home.
- Go to church weekly. This is different among us all, but it fits into my list for simple balance and grounding in life.
- Limit screen time and electronics. Oh this topic. It was one that I was firm about for so long, but as my children have gotten older, I have found ways to cope with it. Some days we barely watch TV and other days right now where it is scalding hot outside, we do watch it. I have learned to find some balance with this and to give myself grace when I just want some quiet time. I do think having time limits and shutting the TV off requires kids to go play, to get bored and to use their imaginations. I monitor what they watch, how long they watch and I make them turn it off to go play in their rooms. An iPad is a treat here and they will never have their own iPads (not for many more years at least).
- Less is more. We mostly all know and believe this statement to be true, however living it can be harder. Of course we get excited when Christmas comes around because we want to give so much to those we love. I have been already brainstorming and making lists of how we can cut the costs and "toys" back for the holidays this year. Whether it's gift giving or filling your home with things you love, sometimes less can truly lead to more. Less clutter leads to less anxiety.
- Make Nature your oasis. I love when my kids are out until the sun goes down playing, just as I did as a child. Some days this is difficult because the later bedtimes are not good for me, but I know that it's fun for them. They are climbing their swing set, swinging on our tree swing and watching the moon peek out from the colors of the evening sky. These moments are the memories that they will hold onto throughout their life. Summers can be harder here because of the heat, so we wait until late in the evenings to play for a longer period of time.
- Name brands are pointless. I put this here because in our modern culture, there is a lot of weight placed on name brands. I remember dreaming of owning my first Coach bag back when I was in college. Now here I am years later with several Coach bags piled up in my closet because I don't have the heart to get rid of them (mostly gifts from my husband). These things have no real value in life. I hope to instill this in my children because truly, brands are meaningless. I understand good quality but not labeling. As my child heads to Kindergarten, all of her new school shoes come from Wal-Mart. I laughed at this one day because I actually hate Wal Mart with a passion. But here's why it was simple: I was able to get everything at once - she found shoes she loved - I got more for my money than just one pair somewhere else - it was stress free and fit our budget at the time. It made my life more simple to get it all there. Easy, peasy.
- Get kids involved. I won't lie, I struggle in this area because of my need to just get things down my way. However in the back of my mind, I know it is time to start involving my girls in the kitchen more and learning about cooking (I opted out of this growing up often and regret it). Getting them involved in understanding simple, real food and healthy nourishment for our bodies can also set them up for a healthier future.
- Think of the old days. When I want to simplify our life and find balance, I think of how it was in the old days and how simple life was. I want that life but of course, we just have to find the balance of modern and old.
- Stop the comparison game. This can be hard but it's true. Stop comparing our cars, our homes and our wardrobes to others. Comparison is the root of all evil sometimes and we are much happier when we are just appreciative for what we have. Just because someone has nicer things doesn't mean much. Sometimes nicer comes with more debt, unstable emotions and more unhappiness. Everyone has a story and we don't know everyone's story.
- Simplicity is proven to be helpful for children. Routines and simple childhoods are previously mentioned in several articles as helping to create more balanced children who use their imaginations and are healthy and will likely continue to grow healthy with less anxiety.
Simplicity rules in my book and I am always striving on how I can make their life more simple. We frequently purge toys, keep clutter to a bay and practice cleaning and respecting our home and nature. Get outside with your little ones and begin forming a life of simplicity and less chaos.
Find your grace as you grow into this role as a mother simplifying the lives of the little people you create. Our modern world doesn't care for simplicity but many are starting to realize how important it is to our mental health.
Be the voice who decides how your children will grow and navigate life! Never underestimate the power of simplicity.