Seven. Nobody prepared me for seven. (Ok let’s be honest, I say that about every age). But sometimes I wonder whether it’s the age or if it’s just my daughter.
She’s an extrovert, and I don’t know how to raise an extrovert because I’m an introvert.
She’s sensitive, and so am I. Yet I don’t know how to raise a sensitive child because I don’t even know how to raise myself. Gosh, nobody taught me these things. Where’s the manual?!
I feel inadequate every day.
What I do know is this: just like every other human being on planet Earth, my girl wants to be noticed, seen, praised…ESPECIALLY because she’s the oldest. We put a lot of pressure on our oldest child don’t we? We don’t do it on purpose; it’s just the way it tends to go. We sometimes have to be extra intentional about praising our eldest girls so that they know that we don’t just “expect” them to pick up the slack or shoulder extra responsibilities. And we have to be careful that we don’t accidentally push too much on them too soon. Because that icky feeling you get when you give and give and it seems like it’s just never enough? I would know; I’m a teacher and a mom.
What I do know is this: just like every other human being on planet Earth, my girl wants to be seen, noticed, and praised.
But what I’m not is an oldest child. So I’m constantly stressed that I’m doing it wrong, asking my older sister (who’s the oldest child in our family) for advice on how to not royally screw my daughter up.
Awhile back, I was thinking about ways to connect with my daughter. I thought about how she loves Starbucks, so I thought maybe I should take her to Starbucks more. But Starbucks is expensive and the lines are always long. Scratch that.
I thought about how we could go on a shopping spree together— it’s just that every time we do (because that girl outgrows clothes like it’s her day job), she begs me for more friendship bracelets and LOL dolls and every single sparkly dress in the girl’s section. That’s great and all, but if I want to CONNECT with her and make her feel special and seen? I probably shouldn’t set myself up to be annoyed and ready to high-tail it out of the store after less than ten minutes.
Ok, next plan. Out to lunch? Mommy daughter art class? Trampoline park?
The problem, I realized, was that I was making it too hard. As moms, we are experts at putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves. All those activities are excellent ways to connect with my daughter, yes, but I would also need to regularly put forth an uncomfortable amount of effort (and money—whyyyy must everything cost money??) While I do prioritize “dates” with each of my kiddos and am a big believer in getting out and having fun experiences, sometimes the last thing I want to do is organize or attend one more activity. Between dance class and girl scouts and homework and everything else we take on, couldn’t there be some easier but no less awesome ways I could connect with my daughter?
As moms, we are experts at putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
Why yes, yes there could. As I got to thinking, I remembered that parenting should be SIMPLE. Loving our kids is effortless, so connecting with them should be too! Moms, we have to be smart with our time so that we can maintain some semblance of sanity. We are the CEO’s of our households after all, so effective time management and efficiency is a must. Guilt has no place in our existence and we don’t have to go places or spend money or feel like we are responsible to provide our kids with an unforgettable experience every time we want them to feel loved. Our kiddos actually need very little. So, let’s go back to the basics.
Loving our kids is effortless, so connecting with them should be too.
In honor of my daughter being seven, here are SEVEN awesome ways to connect with your little girl, right in the walls of your own home, without absolutely any extra effort or money spent on your part. Win/win. (Obviously these ideas are great for a lot of ages! Decide for yourself!)
1. Take a shower together
Ok– at first glance this might seem strange, and obviously if this isn’t your thing, scratch it. But I find that at this age, my daughter is still so innocent and this is the absolute easiest way for her to feel special. We sing, act silly, and get clean all at the same time.
2. Let her help you cook dinner
My daughter loves to chop veggies, put together salad kits, or brown hamburger. Make sure you chat with her about her day!
3. Have her help you with a “fun” job, and sing along to some upbeat songs while “working”
My daughter loves Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift tunes. Belting out women empowerment songs while putting away the groceries makes it so much more fun.
4. Let her paint your nails
My daughter loves to play “nail salon” and provide me with the whole shebang: foot massage, lotion, painted nails, etc. Um, hello relaxation time for me disguised as “play time” for her! And hey, in a couple days you can remove the polish if you want, and she won’t even notice.
5. Cuddle and watch a movie
Let her pick the movie, and stay off your phone! If it’s a really good movie, she probably won’t even pick up on the fact that you’re asleep ten minutes in.
6. Let her join you in your workout
There are so many great YouTube workout videos that are easy enough for a kid to do, or if she’s anything like my daughter, she will love to do a relaxing yoga workout with you. Yoga with Adriene is our fave! If working out isn’t your thing, go for a neighborhood walk together and let her talk up a storm. Your only job is to listen.
7. Last but not least, let her run some simple errands with you
My daughter is actually at the age where she’s more of a help than a hindrance when we’re out and about. She loves to scan the items at self checkout, or tell me when the gas tank is full by watching the price go up on the screen until it finally stops. Somehow, this is super mesmerizing for her. It’s fun to have the company, and some of the best conversations happen in the car.
And that’s it! Simple, free, and perfect for giving your sweet daughter some one-on-one attention. Remember mamas, ‘Go Big or Go Home’ is just the societal pressure talking. Why not just go home? Your daughter loves YOU, not your money or fancy Pinterest activities. Keep it simple and allow your connection to blossom organically through every-day activities. You will go to bed each night feeling great about your blooming relationship and the fact that you don’t have to try too hard to establish a firm and lasting friendship with your girl.