More often than I’d like to admit, I’ll look at the clock somewhere around 3 p.m. and realize I’ve gone the entire day without connecting to my kids. 

I Am Right There

Sure, I’ve been right there with them all day long.  I’ve supervised the brushing of teeth,  braided hair into pigtails, and set up a painting studio in the garage. 

I’ve pushed them on the swings. Then, slid down the slide with the younger one who’s scared to go by herself. 

I’ve put Band-Aids on real and imaginary scrapes. 

Meals have been assembled containing veggies cut into cute, kid-friendly shapes. 

I’ve shuttled them to and from dance class.  Also, clapped wildly from the sidelines at the end of every song. 

I’ve been alongside them, full hands in, all day long, but I haven’t stopped to be with them.  Or, perhaps the whole day has been a string of failed attempts to grasp a moment for myself, or to cross one tiny item off my to-do list, and in my frustration, I’ve lashed out at my kids in a tone and volume they don’t deserve.

Reset

However the day has unfolded to reach this point, it’s clear we all need a hard reset. (OK, I’m probably the one who needs the reset.  I also might need to apologize to my kids.)  How do I quickly shift the mood?  The answer is always this: I read books to my kids.

Reading Break

I leave whatever mess is scattered on the carpet or smeared across the kitchen countertops, and I go grab a stack of books.  I tell my girls we’re taking a reading break. They spread out the books on the ottoman, and I tell them to pick their favorites.

Reading forces me to leave my phone out of my reach (and not just look up from it for a moment).  It forces me to turn off all distractions, and zero in on my daughters.  They’re small enough to both still fit on my lap, so thankfully that’s where they sit, and as they settle in, instantly I’m reminded how lucky I am to have their soft, round, sweet-smelling faces snuggled under my chin.  They are still young and still mine to savor.  Finally, with a book in my hand, I slow down to a pace that allows me to do that.

It doesn’t matter what books I read to my kids, either.  While I hope for stories that I enjoy too, or ones that are at least slightly educational, the books can be mindless or silly or boring.  And reading will still work its calming and re-routing magic.

Simply Be With

The days when motherhood turns me upside down like a piggy bank and shakes out my every last cent, and when my last reserves of creativity are depleted, books do the work for me.  All I have to do is read the words on the page.  When I read with my girls, I’m reminded that the goal of parenting, and the gift of parenting, are the same: to simply be with them.

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Ashlee grew up in Newbury Park, and returned to the area after studying journalism at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and teaching English in Santiago, Chile for two years. She spent three years as a working mom, before leaving the corporate world to become a full-time, at-home parent. Her daughters are 4 and 6 years old, and she relishes getting to experience her old childhood stomping grounds through their eyes. An Enneagram 4, Ashlee enjoys reading, running, music, collecting vintage fashion magazines, and sharing a fun cocktail with her husband after work while their kids sit/jump beside them on the couch and watch "Pinkalicious." She is a whole-hearted believer that “it takes a village” not only to raise a child, but also to raise a mother. She is grateful for a supportive family, friends, and community, and is passionate about the power of writing to connect us and let us know we’re not alone.

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