Guest post - Looking back to the pre-school years

Today I am very excited to have Michelle Pannell from Mummy from the Heart guest posting. Her blog is very successful and well worth following. Her children are that bit older than mine (and many of my readers who are also in the preschool/early primary stage) so I asked her to share her wisdom looking back at this stage. I have found her words so encouraging and hopefully lots of you will too. Thanks Michelle!

Michelle and her family

Michelle and her family

Hi friends I'm Michelle, a 43year old Christian mum of three from East Sussex. My children are 9 year old twin girls Miss M and Miss E and a 13 year old boy, JJ. I'm really happy to be guest posting here at Happy is her Home (don't you think that's just the most amazing blog name?) but I have to be honest when Nicola suggested that I write about the advice I'd now give to myself if I was to return to those toddler/ pre-school parenting years I drew a bit of a blank. My word, what wisdom do I now have to pass on that I didn't then?

I've been chewing this over for a few days and trying to compare my life with the kids now to when they were little and really there is no comparison. I nowadays give most of my time voluntarily to local charities, do a bit of free-lance work around the kids school hours and we live as part of a Christian community. When my children were toddlers or preschoolers I worked at a University in their HR department and prior to having my girls I was studying for my MA as well. So combine that with my church commitments and odd bits of voluntary work (think PTA and a charity shop) and I was much busier then, than I am now.

Looking back I wonder if I missed some of the joy in those early years as I was tied to a to-do list to ensure that everything got done and nothing collapsed around me. With that in mind here are the main areas of advice I'd give to a parent of younger children.

Time goes too quick, so work less

Time goes by so quickly, we all know it. You know it, I bet it doesn't feel like moments ago your child was a baby. So please, I beg you slow down. Work less if you can - that could be paid work or voluntary, just make sure you find the balance. We now live on thousands less than we did before we moved but for us, it is worth sacrificing a second car or an abroad holiday to be there for the children when they come home from school. 

Have impromptu fun together

Weekdays tended to be taken up with work or if I wasn't at work, it would be clubs - toddlers, swimming, music etc etc and many of us are guilty of signing our kids up for too many organised activities. Then Saturdays were housework and shopping and of course church on Sunday. I've truly found that my kids flourish when removed from the rat-race, if I were to have preschoolers again I'd slow down and take more woodland rambles, I'd ride the bus into town and I'd spend days at home being guided by what they fancy doing.

Have regular family time outdoors

Since moving to the countryside we have made sure we have regular family time outdoors. All five of us together with no agenda but to enjoy Gods amazing creation and time with each other. We’ve found Sunday afternoons to be perfect for this.

Make sure your husband has Dad days

When JJ was a toddler and I was studying for my MA, my husband would collect him from nursery one day and have him all Saturday whilst I studied and then when I went back to work after the girls he would work a Saturday and have all the kids on a Tuesday so I could do an extra-long day. The bonds formed during those one-on-one times can never be underestimated and my husband has an amazing relationship with our children. Still regularly taking each one out for special daddy time.

Give experiences over gifts

Now my children are older when I chat to them about years gone by it is always the experiences and holidays that they remember. Don’t get caught up in the materialistic things, they don’t need loads of new toys, they just need to feel cherished and loved. All children want their parent’s time far more than they want their money and they don’t even know it sometimes. So play a board game, go for a ramble, take them away for a weekend break, visit a castle together or all enjoy the theatre for a treat.

Remember that they change

You might be going through a trying time with your child right now, perhaps they are the most boisterous one in the class? Or maybe they are so painfully shy you can’t get them to speak a word but just remember that however they are now, they will change. Keep loving them and believing in them and God will do the rest. When JJ first started school all the feedback and reports suggested he had Asperger’s and we started the assessment process but God firmly closed the door before we went too far and now aged 13 years, it is obvious JJ was just academically gifted and he needed to grow into himself. 

Be consistent, set the boundaries early

Of course you’ll grow in your parenting skills as time goes by but the best advice I can ever give is to be consistent with your children. Set the boundaries that suit your family and then stick to them and yes sometimes it will be really painful to do so but it will be completely worth it. I sometimes get comments from other adults about how funny it is to watch one of my children trying to push a boundary (for instance, no means no in our family) and all I have to do is raise an eyebrow or start to count with one finger held up and that is it, they know I mean business and they need to toe the line. Of course now they are older we can discuss why we have these boundaries and rules in place and that is really helpful but on occasion they still don’t have the maturity to understand and just have to know that my husband and I have their best interests at heart and our say is final.

I probably could go on and on but I think you have enough food for thought there. If you like my writing style and would like to read more, then you can find me over at Mummy from the Heart (where there is eight years of posts you can trawl through if you so wish) and at Progress Not Perfection , which is my newer faith blog.