You spent weeks planning this vacation to Disneyland. You got them tickets to an NBA game. You’re taking the whole family to the dessert place you loved as a kid. You waited in line for an hour to get them a new bike, spent a week assembling a new trampoline for the backyard.
These are the things we do for our kids because we love them. Because we’ll do anything for them. Of course, parenting is also stressful. Yes, we have yelled at them at the airport because they kept running away. Sure, now we nag them about how much (or little) they ride that bike we got them. And now they’re a wreck from the sugar rush of the ice cream. It’s almost as if the things we try so hard to do right, the things we wanted so badly to be special, the “quality time” we wanted to make the most of, turned out to be more pain than pleasure.
But here’s the real crazy part: We kill ourselves to do these difficult things, meanwhile on an ordinary afternoon when our son comes over to ask us an innocuous question that he is genuinely curious about…we can barely look up from our phone. We’ll drive a thousand miles for the hope of fun family memories in the resort pool…but we turn down repeated entreaties to jump in the one in our own backyard. “Maybe later,” we say, “I don’t want to have to change my clothes.” We build them the trampoline, as if they wouldn’t be just as happy to run and jump around in the grass if you joined them. We plan that nice dinner with our teenager so we can talk, as if there weren’t plenty of opportunities to do that on the way to school each morning. Yet here you are…turning on a podcast.
Your kids don’t want—let alone need—much. Except for you. They need you to be present. They need you in the garbage moments. They appreciate the big things, of course, but they’re just as happy with the little ones. And more importantly, they are much less likely to appreciate the big things if the stress and the tension from the little things are going to be dumped all over them in the interim.
Relax. You’re making this harder than it needs to be.