The One Thing I Do With My Kids to Make Them Happier and More Confident.

Whenever I speak to my friends who don’t have kids yet, they relate to my stories about my kids by sharing stories of when they were a kid. We start to talk about fond childhood memories and I find that one type of memory always sticks out. That is the time we spent with one parent and had their full attention; no technology, no distractions, nobody interrupting. The memories are all different, of course, but they all have the same feel. Whether it was baking cookies, reading together (even quietly and beside each other rather than to each other), throwing a ball, or going for coffee, it was one-on-one quality time spent together. If the person grew up with siblings, it was often also time away from that sibling so that they could talk to their parent uninterrupted. For some, it was only a ten minute talk before bedtime with the bedroom door closed so their brother or sister couldn’t barge in and interrupt. But it mattered. Alot. I know that it did because it is the most common memory that people bring up. It always starts with, “It was just me and my mom/dad/older brother or sister”. Whoever was older and had the most influence on that person as a child was who they craved quality time with. Even Josh’s grandmother’s favourite memory is singing a hymn and doing a nighttime prayer with only her mother before bed.

I am lucky enough to have a traditional family. It is myself and Josh parenting Isabella and Hunter. I am not a single parent and we are not “outnumbered”, so to speak, so it is easier for us to divide up and spend alone time with one of our kids. We didn’t always do this. In fact, we didn’t give it much thought until Isabella got a bit older and started dealing with anxiety.

 

Cornerstone Music Cafe, Calgary, AB

At Cornerstone Music Cafe for a girl date.

Isabella is small and an out-of-the-box thinker. Teachers call her an old soul and say she has a creative mind. Her long-term thinking meant that she didn’t always see eye-to-eye with her peers and sometimes led to a bit of teasing and even bullying from them. She often gets frustrated with people- and has since kindergarten. In kindergarten, she was upset at one of her peers for killing a bug because we need bugs to pollinate plants and without them the plants would all die, followed by humans- or so she told me after class, through tears. I also remember her coming home from Grade One distraught because a classmate wasn’t doing his work during class. She cared about him and wanted him to succeed. My bite-size six-year-old knew he was smart enough to do the work and was upset when she saw that he was choosing not to that day. Isabella came home and told me that, “If he doesn’t do his work, he won’t go to the next grade and won’t finish school or get a job and if he doesn’t get a job he will be homeless!” I wish I was making that up. It is very hard to parent a six-year-old that already thinks that far ahead. She applied that same thinking to her own work. If it wasn’t perfectly done, she rationalized, she could be homeless someday.

Needless to say, she started to deal with high-level anxiety.

Being that young meant that she didn’t have the vocabulary to properly voice what was going on inside her brain and we didn’t know how to teach her that skill. She did a bit of therapy, which helped, but when she was done with therapy, I felt like she closed up again. So, to keep the lines of communication open, I decided to take her out for a girls day when she was in Grade Two. Isabella picked her favourite area of Calgary, Kensington, where we window-shopped and walked and had snacks. When Isabella seemed more relaxed, I took her out for coffee and we had a chat. It took a moment, but I think being with only one parent that was totally focused on what she had to say, helped. Eventually, a whole bunch of little things that were swirling around her brain and bothering her spewed out in words. Afterward, she seemed calmer and more open to telling us about her day. Isabella was happier when she came home and Hunter declared that he had a nice day with daddy but would also want a day with mommy, too.

A new tradition was born! When we started it, we said that we would do it once a month and take turns with the kids. In real life, sometimes it happens two or three times in one month and none the next, but we try to average it out.

This time around, Hunter had a birthday party to be at, so Isabella and I took off to the Cornerstone Music Cafe to listen to some music. When I saw that there is live music every Saturday, I immediately thought of my choir-joining, music loving, always humming daughter. I asked Isabella if she wanted to go and she didn’t even ask what kind of music- she just said “yes!”

We brought pens and paper to draw on as well as our books to read. I even brought a notebook to do a bit of creative writing. With our drinks chosen and our spot picked out, we sat down and started to read. Isabella would occasionally look up and share something funny from her book which was a sweet moment I will love forever.

Comfortable reading position

 

We had a great afternoon. We had a snack, a gluten-free pumpkin pie square, and shared it, to Isabella’s delight. Pumpkin pie is her favourite thing right now.

 

Cornerstone Music Cafe, Calgary AB

Gluten-free pumpkin pie square? Yes, please.

 

We talked while we ate our snack and I was reminded of how creative and deep a thinker Isabella really is. It was nice to hear her uninterrupted thoughts; especially since they could come out slow and well thought out, not rushed in the terror that she would be cut off by Hunter or the phone ringing or what have you. When she was finished talking, we read, but we took breaks from reading to write or draw. Isabella drew pictures while I started a creative writing story. I asked Isabella for her opinion on my story and she was overjoyed that I would ask her opinion! I think it helped her confidence but that wasn’t my motivation- I really just needed her opinion. At nine years old, I can already see that Isabella will surpass me in writing ability and style fairly soon. She is incredible. As I suspected, she had a strong opinion about the beginning of my story and a ton of really great suggestions for the direction it could go. Weirdly enough, she said she had started a story a couple of weeks ago in her private journal that was very similar in theme! Like mother, like daughter I guess, hey.¬†Isabella had a great idea- we would finish our own stories and share them at the end to see how similar or different they become. I think that is a brilliant suggestion. We didn’t set an end date so who knows when we’ll get them done, but I hope we follow through.

 

Cornerstone Music Cafe, Calgary AB

Drawing a fox family.

The band played in the background while Izzy and I worked on a little sketch together, with a lot of breaks for clapping because the band, Winnie Brave, was really good. So good that Isabella went up and bought a piece of merch, a car air freshener! All in all, it cost about $20 and was worth it. At the end of the day, we had a cute sketch, heads full of story ideas and a bucket full of memories. It seemed to improve Isabella’s confidence and gave her some time to regroup after a long week. I also think these are the little pieces of time we truly remember the longest and hold in our heart the dearest.

Maybe next time we will go for a bike ride together!

What are some of your favourite memories as a child?

Do you have kids? What is your favourite family tradition to do with them?

 

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