As parents and even parents-to-be, we become trained to watch and wait for important milestones with our children. From the time a baby enters the world (and even before), we’re bombarded with books, websites, apps, experts and relatives all starting to watch and wait for those big achievements along with us.

From holding their head up, to sitting up on their own, to crawling, walking, talking, eating solids, potty-training, going to their first day of school and so on, we wait and wait for each child in our life to accomplish certain things.

These accomplishments are, of course, significant and should be celebrated. But what about all the in-between moments? Should we not breathe those in, too?

As the saying goes, “Remember the little things in life … for one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Here are 10 “little things” that will encourage you to pause, smile and take the time to celebrate your children while they’re still young.

Watch how they move their feet

baby feetThere’s probably no other time in life when you’ll adore feet as much as when your children are little. These are little feet that have barely walked this earth and have so many more miles ahead of them. I could stare at my almost-three-year-old’s feet for hours as she moves all her 10 toes forward and back, spreading them apart and then crunching them together, as they dangle on the couch.

Smell their hair

Closing your eyes and smelling your child’s hair after they’ve come in from playing outside can take you back to when you were a kid. You’ll probably remember long days of playing, bike riding, swinging as high as the sky, jumping in puddles and skipping. We all know that childhood is a simple, carefree time of life with an unfortunately small window. Smell your child’s hair, however, and you’re breathing in that life!

Listen to their singing

In a bad mood? Listen to your child sing. Watch their expressions as they belt out a song at the top of their lungs. The words may be not be right, or they may be made up as they go along—even better! The saying “Sing like nobody’s listening” must have come from somebody watching their child sing. The trick, though, is to not let them catch you listening.

Watch them playing

little girl talking to teddy bearOne of my favourite things to do is watch my children play. It gives me a glimpse into their world, both real and imaginary.

I see both my daughters pretending to be mothers. They sit their “babies” in high chairs and spoon-feed them in just the way I used to feed them. They kiss them on their heads, they go for walks with them, they take them to the grocery store and the park, and they read them stories. Although my daughters don’t play nicely all the time, for the most part, seeing them become friends makes me feel like they’ll always have each other’s backs as they grow up.

It’s important that you enjoy watching your children play as often as possible, because one day, it’ll suddenly seem as if they’re always behind the closed doors of their rooms!

Play with your children

Play starts off one-sided as you talk away to your baby. Then, slowly, you get babbles back. Then they roll a ball back to you.

This all seemed somewhat boring to me in the early days of motherhood. One day, however, as I was playing with my children as I normally do, I looked out the window and saw two girls walking side-by-side, talking and smiling. They were probably around 11 or 12 years old. It suddenly hit me that one day in the not-too-distant future, this would be my daughter and her friend. I would no longer be my daughter’s best friend. She’d have her own friends whom she’d want to spend time with. I would no longer be her “number one.”

Be sure to pause and enjoy—for the time being—being your child’s “number one.”

Listen to their words

A child’s words aren’t always said in the right context or pronounced correctly, but it’s endearing to hear how they’ve interpreted something and are now using their confidence to express themselves and communicate. Besides listening to them, make sure that you write the most memorable words, sayings and expressions down somewhere so you and your child can one day laugh at them together.

Accept their “help”

If you’ve ever had the “help” of a two-year-old, you’d know this actually creates more work. Something that would take you five minutes ends up taking 15. I’ve caught myself, more than once, sighing when I heard a little voice saying, “Mama, can I help you?” along with the sound of a chair being dragged across the kitchen floor.

Instead of sighing, though, it’s best to pause and think about how much your child wants to be close to you and be like you, and desires to help you in their own way. If you accept their eagerness, it’ll be impossible to say no.

Let them dress how they want to dress

little boy with hatWalking my daughter to school one day, I observed how all the parents walking with their children were dressed in plain black coats, black or grey pants and black shoes.

On the other hand, all the little kids wore vibrant colours of pink, red, green and blue. Many items of clothing had stripes, polka dots or sparkles.

My children were no different. Gone are the days when I could put my kids in cute little outfits that perfectly match. Once my girls became older than two years old, each of them developed a mind of their own when it came to how they wanted to dress.

Before that time, I never realized how opinionated little children could be about their clothing. When my four-year-old pulled out a floral dress, floral leggings and a jacket covered in flowers, I cringed and tried to persuade her to wear something else. She looked at me with sadness and confusion in her eyes, and it actually made me sad to see that I’d hurt her feelings over something so silly.

I now find myself smiling when I see how my kids express themselves through their outfits. Enjoy this uninhibited, carefree, no-rules-apply style sense that little children adhere to, since it’ll be gone before you know it.

Take in all the giggles

Truthfully, I hope the laughing and giggling never ends, no matter how old they get. But we all know that more often than not, we become more serious and reserved as we grow up. Listening to your children belly-laugh hysterically while grinning from ear-to-ear is contagious and can never get old.

Hold them while you can

My kids are just getting to the age at which they may no longer ask to be picked up. Sometimes I find myself wanting to pick up one of my children, but I quickly get scolded and told, “No, don’t pick me up. I’m not a baby!” There was a time when my arms actually ached from holding them, but now, I find my heart aches when I realize those days are mostly gone. Hold your children while you can, and when that’s no longer possible, give them lots of hugs.

“These are the best days”

“These are the best days” is something I often hear from family, friends and even strangers in regard to my young children. They seem to know something, all those people who have children who are teenagers and twenty-somethings!

If these really are the “best days,” all the more reason to celebrate the little things that childhood brings. I’ve given you a short list of 10 things, but if you stay engaged with your children, you’ll notice that the list is really endless.

It’s essential to look between all those grand “milestone” achievements that everyone pays attention to as your children grow up. The milestones will still come, but while you’re waiting, remember to pause and breathe in the beauty and chaos that your young children bring to your life each and every day.

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by Kristina Sego
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