What was the last advice you got that took you by surprise? Was it the message itself? Or was it the person who gave it to you? For me it was both.
My little sister has always been someone I’ve seen as very level-headed. She perfectly balances out my imbalances. She’s the kind of person I look at and think, “How does she always manage to get it right?” The oldest child typically has the burden of feeling like they need to have the answers, and like they always have to take care of their younger siblings. I am very fortunate to say that in our situation, with my mental illness ebbing and flowing like the tide, Allie has a tendency to selflessly take care of me.
Needless to say, I look up to my younger sister very much. She is someone I can always count on for good advice, advice that hits me right in the feels. Advice that is exactly what I need to hear. That’s precisely why her guidance that she offered me yesterday took me by surprise. It was not what I expected to hear her say.
She called me while she was headed out somewhere, as she often does, and asked how I was. I told her I was pretty stressed. My kids were being bad yesterday and it seemed like nothing I did made them listen. I vented about what is admittedly the most annoying advice that someone with chronic illness can hear in regards to their parenting: “Well, if they aren’t behaving, maybe they’re bored and need an activity.”
Gee, thanks. Why don’t I get off the couch and do something with them? Like my depressed brain hasn’t thought of that.
Sometimes, you just need to rest. Sometimes, you are not going to be able to be active with your children. Chronic illness robs us of that ability, and it is frustrating to have it made to sound easy.
Like I mentioned, my younger sister always has it together. She takes her kids out for FRESH AIR, takes them to the local play area and park, plays outside with them, and seems to enjoy it. To be completely honest, when I went on a little rant, I expected her to say, “Well, that’s what I do, and it helps!”
Instead, she said something to the extent of, “I totally understand. Sometimes you just need to stay in, and that’s okay.” She said if doing a bunch of activities is just going to make your stress or illness worse, it’s not worth it.
We as parents need to give ourselves grace when we go through difficult seasons of life. As much as I would love to romp through meadows of wildflowers with my kids right now, I literally can’t. I do a lot of lying on the couch while they play. Sure we play, and read books, and color. But I spend most of the day sitting down or lying down. And I need to start being kinder to myself about that.
Things won’t always be this way. I will enter a season of life at some point where I have more energy and their behavior doesn’t stress me out quite as much (or, at least, they are both in school full time, and I have more time to myself to decompress.) Things will get easier. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim it might seem.
I wanted to share 5 things you can do to keep your kids busy when you just don’t feel up to taking them on fun adventures. They require relatively little supplies, or time to set up.
- Indoor agility exercises: One of my kids favorite activities is to lay a jump rope on the ground (either in a straight line or a zigzag) and practice balancing. You could also have them jump back and forth over it. Another game they like lately is Red Light, Green Light. The can run back and forth up and down the length of our kitchen and living room area and they think it is hilarious!
- Reading: You can never put too high a value on reading to your kids. This is even something that can be done while you’re lying down. Grab a blanket, snuggle up with a pile of books, and have your little ones point out the sight words they’re learning, or even try to read a sentence or two. This is so beneficial, and the snuggles will make you feel better too.
- Coloring/tracing: Get out a piece of paper and some crayons and have them go at it! If you want to turn it into a more structured activity, you can draw an outline of their name or some shapes and have them practice tracing it. Coloring isn’t as mindless of an activity as you might think. It helps develop their imagination, knowledge of colors, and discipline (coloring in the lines).
- Puzzles: This is a great “sit down” activity that both my little ones enjoy. Get out a 100 piece puzzle and take turns trying to find where the pieces go. That teaches them focus and about taking turns and patience. If it is especially hard, you can even frame it when you’re done!
- Watching a movie: Yes, we all know what they say about screen time, but sometimes, you have just about had it, and the only thing you can manage is putting on Netflix. That is okay. Like I said, this is about learning to give yourself grace in a difficult season. Your child will relish the time cuddled up next to you, soaking up the love.
Parenting is hard. So unbelievably hard. Everyone has their seasons where they are flitting around like butterflies, ushering their kids back and forth between different activities, and to the zoo, and to birthday parties. And then there are times when you just watch a lot of TV. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, you are a good mom, and your kids love you. Don’t ever forget that.
What are some of your favorite activities when you need a “down day”? I would love some new ideas!
PS- My sister of the wise advice is also a blogger! Check out her blog HERE