“Why are we spending all this money on a party she will never remember?” I asked my wife at least half a dozen times as we planned our daughter Adley’s second birthday last spring. I’m all for a good party (something my high school friends, college friends, and any friend I’ve had can attest to), but this seemed to be going overboard.
Did we need to turn our living room into a ball pit? Was it necessary to have a bouncy house in the backyard and hire a professional decorator? My wife’s answer to all these questions was a resounding yes, and since we have the unique system of each getting one vote and her breaking all ties, you can imagine where we landed.
Everyday Moments are Also Important to Cherish
The party was a lot of fun, and Adley’s friends and their parents seemed to enjoy themselves. All-in-all, a success. That was seven months ago, and I only remember little bits and pieces. Turning two is a significant milestone, but it’s not a moment I cherish with my child.
It was an event that came and went.
What I do remember in vivid detail is three weeks later when we took our dog, Herbie, on a walk around the neighborhood. It’s the same thing we do every day, but this was the first time I let Adley walk on her own without a stroller.
She stopped every eight feet or so to observe the neighbor’s yard or their car and ask a million questions about whatever was on her little mind. I explained why there were cracks in the pavement, why one neighbor’s front door was white and another was brown, and the difference between a bush and a tree. Our usual 10-minute walk took 45 minutes, and I loved every second of it. Although, Herbie didn’t appreciate the pace.
Was there anything special about this Wednesday afternoon stroll? Was there anything unique that made this moment stand out? Not at all. But it reminded me how lucky I am to be Adley’s dad, and more so how lucky I am to be a stay-at-home dad. I’ve learned to focus on those little moments, the ones no one sees or would even notice if they were present. That’s the good stuff.
Quality Time With Kids Matters
Experts refer to this as the quality time between parents and their children when you give your full, undivided attention during an activity. It can be playing in the backyard, discovering a new game, drawing a picture, or eating dinner together. That’s where memories are made and can benefit your child. In an article for the University of Illinois Extension, six family life experts noted quality time between parents and their child “develops stronger communication, promotes interactions, strengthens bonds within the family, helps children become mentally and emotionally healthier, builds self-esteem, and instills values and experiences in your children to help them become better people overall.”1
There are also benefits to parents beyond spending this all-important time with their child. The authors found parents become better at communicating with their children and understanding more about them while learning which activities they enjoy. While researching this article, I discovered that focusing on the little moments is now beyond experts’ studies.
The Minnesota Council of Health Plans started a statewide awareness campaign called “Little Moments Count” on the importance of frequent connections between parents and kids, focusing on children three and younger.2
Just Take the Time to Do Something Together
It’s easy for me, as a stay-at-home parent, to preach the gospel of quality time with my child. My full-time job is quality time with my child. But we can also apply this to working parents because little moments don’t have to be elaborate or expensive (especially compared to my daughter’s birthday party). They can be as simple as doing a new activity together.
For example, I’m a worrier. After Adley recently took a vocal stand against vegetables for the third day in a row, I began to worry she wasn’t getting enough nutrition. So, I found a recipe for vegetable muffins and decided this would be a great activity for us. Turns out, going through the process of including my toddler got her more excited to eat the muffins when we finished!
She loved dropping the chopped carrots and zucchini into the batter, the food she wouldn’t touch 24 hours earlier. This wasn’t an elaborate plan or something I was holding onto for a rainy day. I had a problem and decided to include my daughter in the solution. Was it messy? You bet. Did we have a lot of fun doing it together and creating a memory? Absolutely.
Sometimes, cherishing the little moments can be that simple.
We will never forget our children turning two, their first Christmas, or their first time trick-or-treating on Halloween. But all the moments in between can have the most significant impact on their development. The moments I try to consciously remind myself are happening daily around us. As parents, we need to remember to be part of them actively.