If you only have a two or three hour window together with your grandchildren, make the focus on doing together instead of doing for. Making nice meals for your loved ones can be a way of nurturing them and demonstrating your hosting capabilities, but it's also another form of busyness.
Consider this me giving you permission to ditch the hour or more meal prep. Sure, you might be responsible for feeding the gremlins, but you run the risk of spending your time making the meal instead of making experiences with the goofy, gooey children in your life. I’ve seen it in my friends, family, and certainly in myself. If you came over for supper, I'd want to serve you roasted beet salad, barbecued salmon and wild rice pilaf. Realistically, preparing food with a toddler dangling from my pant leg, or worse ‘playing’ too quietly by himself, drastically reduces my ability to focus. Whatever prep time the recipe creator claims, double it! Once you add a diaper change, nap, text to the parents, pre-meal-snack, and snack mess clean up that ideal window of time you had for playing outdoors with your grandchild has passed.
Preparing nice meals for your grandkids instead of joining them on nature adventures could be due to the quiet misalignment of our time and values many of us struggle with. The trouble is, nothing is monitoring us but our own disappointment. When your grandkids come over to play, make a mental list of what matters most in your relationship and give your hostess self the boot.
What can you do?
- Take note of those optimal windows of time when kids are fed and rested during daylight hours and guard them with your inner stubborn goat. At our house these windows are 8:30a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 4:30p.m.
- Get the parents on board with your plans. Ask for time with the grandkids during these windows of time, then go a step further and ask for the kids to be dropped off in their outdoor gear at the park near your house. Voila, getting out the door eliminated.
- Set a realistic timeline counting backward from nap or mealtime and then add in time for getting dressed and getting out the door.
- Pop supper in the oven or slow cooker and then go outside.
- Pack a picnic to take with you and build it into the outdoor experience.
- Communicate your plan to your grandchildren as you go to reduce frustration during transitions times.
- Use enthusiastic distraction in the form of songs and games when changing reluctant children in and out of clothes. Sparing battles saves time for more beautiful moments to unfold.
- Here's the thing. If you know in advance you'll be spending a whole morning or afternoon with your favourite little monsters, get whatever prep work you can out of the way beforehand. It’s great to involve them in helping to cook, but not every time.
Making nice meals and general household busyness is like a liquid that takes up as much space as you give it. When you carve out time to spend together with your grandchild, make sure to stick to your intention of of doing together, not doing for.
Let the intergenerational awesomeness shine!