Slow Down, or Lose Your Kids

They're begging you to be there for them. Why won't you listen?

Our 4-year-old daughter, Kate, has endless energy. She’s always running. Riding her bike. Dancing and singing. Playing Barbies. Hanging out with the other kids in our Sioux Falls, South Dakota, neighborhood.

So that means my husband and I are always running, too, riding our bikes, dancing and singing, playing Barbies, and hanging out with the other kids (well, the adults) in the neighborhood. Sure, we’ll sit down for a quick dinner, and every once in a while, we’ll plop down on the couch to watch an entire movie together as a family. But more often than not — it’s go, go, go from the moment Kate wakes up in the morning until we finally make her go to bed.

Forget solar-powered anything or wind energy. Bottle up a bit of kid power and the quest for a cheap, renewable energy source will be over. At the very least, I’d like to steal a bit of Kate’s energy and use it myself during my “wish I could take a nap” slump in the afternoons.

You’d think after a whole day of nonstop action, Kate would be ready for bed. I know I usually am.

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Of course she’s not. Bedtime, it seems, comes just when the night is getting interesting. She wants to ride her bike up and down the street in front of our house just one more time.

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She wants just five more minutes to play.

I’m kind of a softie, so I usually give in, much to my husband’s chagrin. What’s five more minutes, right?

When we finally persuade Kate that yes, it really is time to hit the hay, she tries to stretch out the bedtime routine as long as she can. One story turns into two. Two stories turn into three.

“I need to brush my teeth again,” Kate will say. “I need another glass of water.”

Normally, I hold my ground. If we pick out one book, we’ll read one book together. If we pick out two books, we’ll read two. And as much as I appreciate good dental hygiene and proper hydration, enough is enough. It’s time to turn the lights off and go to bed. Mom needs a break!

I sat down beside Kate and asked her what she wanted to talk about.

But one night, Kate said something that made me extend the bedtime routine a little longer, even though I was exhausted myself.

“Mom, let’s talk.”

“What?” I asked her.

“Let’s talk,” she replied.

That’s when it hit me. Sometimes we get so busy doing things that we don’t take time to really connect with each other.

And even for a 4-year-old, that’s important.

So I sat down beside Kate and asked her what she wanted to talk about.

She told me a few stories about the never-ending game of princess she and her friends play during free time at preschool.

She explained how she can now spin around in circles about a hundred times without getting dizzy.

Then there was the hilarious “had to be there” moment at lunch that I didn’t quite understand — but it made her laugh hysterically just telling me about it. I couldn’t tell you specifics if you paid me, but it doesn’t matter.

Sure, I might be tired. Kate is, too — even if she claims she’s not.

But spending five minutes just talking, even if it is about nothing much in particular, is a great tradition to start.

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