When I first started dating Mitch, 15 years ago, he had a little phrase that really became a motto for us: It's the little things that matter most. Time and time again, that saying really put things into perspective for our relationship and our life in general. It was the little things, the small acts of loving kindness, like scraping my frosted windshield for me before I'd head out in the morning, or when he'd have a hot cup of tea ready for me when I'd get home from work, that really mattered most and had just a lasting impact on who we've become all these years later. When we finally decided to become parents it was our "little things"- our boys- that have proven to truly matter most.
Yet it is the little things in a child's life that make it such an interesting time to be a parent. Every where you turn you are bombarded with information, advice and scientific studies telling parents to make sure we are giving our children everything they need. From the minute we find out we are going to be parents we are told what we should do. We are told when and how the baby should be birthed into this world; where, when and how long they should be sleeping for; what foods they should and shouldn't eat, as well as when and how they should eat them; what extra curricular activities they should be in; what toys they should have; etc. It is the little things, that seemingly matter most in the raising of children and by golly we parents really feel that pressure! It is amazing to see how concerned the world is with how wonderfully or how poorly parents are handling the intense pressures to give our children "it all". Are we parents providing every opportunity for our children to grow into the optimal versions of themselves?
If we adults are feeling overwhelmed with the pressure that is put on us by societal norms, then how do you think our little ones must be feeling?! Studies show that kids are feeling so much pressure that their rates of stress and anxiety are skyrocketing. (Give this article a quick read for more information about the stress that parents and kids are feeling: here. ) Everywhere you look you'll find more advice about how to help your children cope with the challenges that are constantly thrust upon them. But please, I know I can't be the only parent out there to feel that our children shouldn't be coping with pressure and stress... to me, we should be preventing it in the first place!
Teddy Rosevelt famously has said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." I truly believe that a lot of society's common stress and anxiety comes from comparing ourselves to others, and worrying about what others will think about us. Our intrinsic motivation to please others, or to fit in, may be small but they sure mean a lot of the majority of the population. To see my boys' joy stolen from them -by themselves, by their peers, by their extended family, by complete strangers,- in this world of constant comparison has forced me to question everything. Mitch and I began to ask ourselves, "What is truly important?". Together we had a serious, sit-down conversation where was asked each other what our hopes and dreams for our family, for ourselves, and for our boys were? No matter how big or how small the dream we laid them all out, shared them with each other . That little heart to heart inspired us and motivated us to make changes in our lives and the lives of our children. The small, seemingly insignificant feelings, acts, and desires became our most important priorities. And, once again, we concluded that it's always the little things that matter most.
Like all parents, we want our children to yearn for nothing and give them every opportunity to grow into their optimal selves. But we really strive to let our boys decide what their optimal self is, not society. We will guide, encourage, teach, and support them, but only they can decide what is important to them. I stumbled upon an amazing quote by Nicolette Sowder a while back that has really stuck with me. It truly sums up my dreams for my boys and my feelings as to why we have chosen to take a road that's a little less travelled than most and why it really is the little things that matter most:
“We often forget that the simplest things are the most crucial for a child’s development, happiness and mental health. Give them space to breathe, freedom to move, loving kindness, opportunities to get dirty and make mistakes. Give them unbridled, joyful time to bond with Mother Nature. Give them a chance to experience the real contextual and connected moments we all long for.”
So I encourage you to ask yourself what are you longing for? What are your dreams for you and your family? What little things matter the most to you?