Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday, to me, is highly overrated. On February 14, restaurants become the setting for amateur night, and gifts feel forced and cliche. I’d rather save the wooing for, say… a random Wednesday in March, but that’s just me. (A bit bah humbug, I realize). I can, however, wholeheartedly get behind Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make homemade cards and sprinkle-festooned cookies and heart-shaped pancakes with my kiddos. Count me in on the idea of the holiday as an excuse to reconnect with my girls. Done and done.
Our D Moms contributor Galit Birk, PhD is on the same page (at least on the kid part). In fact, she believes that being present is the best thing you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your littles. Here’s what she has to say…
By Galit Birk, PhD
I think you would agree that most of us moms today are working in overdrive, working overtime, overworked, over scheduled, over exhausted and overwhelmed as we wear multiple hats and juggle multiple responsibilities many of us with multiple kids! Almost always we are multi-tasking, giving a bit of ourselves in multiple directions at once to get it all done. Thanks to iPhones and iPads, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Bluetooth, we are able to get it all mostly done on most days. This is, after all, how many of us have learned to survive our mom lives. But what if for one day we aim to surpass survival and to thrive rather than merely survive? What if for one day we gifted our children with our full presence, our full selves, our undivided attention channeled in one direction only rather than on multiple tasks and on multiple devices? What if this Valentine’s Day we moms made a pact to be truly present with our children, to turn the devices off, and to truly be with our kids?
It may mean that we don’t get to check Pinterest for that dinner recipe and order in instead, or maybe we turn cooking into an activity we do together with our child. It means we may not get to post more than one status update or check-in at our favorite spot or tweet about the day’s happenings or know what is going on with every one of our closest Facebook friends for a day but…I guarantee you that nothing speaks I love you more to our kids than devoting our attention to them and truly being in the moment with them.
And this holds true at any age. We all want to be heard, we all want to feel important, and none of us want to feel second to a text or an app or a status update. For one day let’s focus on our kids wholly, fully, and completely with the same zeal in which we typically interact with technology to get it all done. Can you imagine the possibilities? I imagine moments of pure connection, deep meaningful dialogue, and a strengthened parent-child bond with kids of every age.
Here are a few suggestions to help you bring more presence to your interactions with your kids this Valentine’s Day and beyond:
Don’t check your email first thing in the morning: You know when you have a trip coming up and you are so excited and happy that you almost feel like you’re already on vacation? The same works in the reverse. You know when you have an impending problem, challenge, or situation that you can’t get off your mind and you’ve already started to try and problem solve it before you even get out of bed? This morning, I invite you to keep the smart phones turned off until after you’ve dropped your kids off at school. This way you can truly and fully BE with them at home rather than be in your own head answering emails and solving the day’s dilemmas. Give your child all of you this Valentine’s morning!
Turn off background music and television: Overstimulation removes the opportunity and the capacity for introspection, for meaningful conversation, and for valuable interaction and connection. Use the time this morning to experience your children – to play for a few minutes before you get ready, to talk about the upcoming day, to connect, and to build memories.
Practice Gratitude: There’s no better way to center yourself for the day and bring presence to the moment than to sit with your thoughts for a moment, accept what is, and bring presence to all that you are grateful for. On this Valentine’s Day I invite moms to share one such gratitude or appreciation about your kids with them and allow them to share something they too are grateful for today. What a great way to encourage meaningful dialogue and authentic connection.
Wake up the brain together: Little brains need bodies that move! This Valentine’s Day – start the morning off with some physical activity together – jump on the bed (carefully!), do jumping jacks, race each other around the house, do some stretching, a sun salutation or some deep breathing together to center yourselves, to bring presence to the morning, to share and to connect through an experience that awakens both body and soul.
Contribute to one another: Contribution keeps us connected to others. We all want to make a difference for those we care about, and, as parents, it is important to both model this to our children as well as to create opportunities for them to experience this for themselves. On this Valentine’s Day let’s show our love by doing something kind for each other or perhaps doing together for the other parent. You might make a Valentine for each other or for dad, take out the trash, or feed the cat to help each other out. Doing small nice deeds for each other is a great way to show love.
Go on a first date with your kids: Would you ever text, email, or check-in on a first date if you actually hoped for a second one? Of course not! You would look that dreamy-eyed boy in the eyes, hang on his every word, and make good effort at deep meaningful conversation and authentic connection. I invite you to do the same with your kids. Go out for ice cream or lunch or a date at the park. Leave your iPhone at home – you can do it! Talk, ask questions, and laugh together. Allow yourself to be in the moment and to be truly moved by this person that is your child. And make sure there is a second and third and fourth date for meaningful connection. Make those memories!
Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day.
Galit Birk, PhD is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® who walks others through parenting with wisdom and grace in her private practice CORE Parent Coaching.