It’s 7:53 am and I wander down to the kitchen. The first stop, always, is the coffee maker. Always.

On this particular Saturday, my husband is up and gone so the coffee is waiting for me. He knows me so well. I pour a mug of the delicious brew into my West Point mug and add a squeeze of honey. It’s a good start.

The first sip of the day is my favorite thing. Then I wander into the family room to find Declan and Keira, already immersed in a game of Labyrinth, one of their favorites. They’ve already been up for an hour and had their breakfast. Still in their jammies, they play and laugh with each other.The teenagers are still enjoying a leisurely morning in bed, sleeping or reading. If I’m REALLY lucky, one of my college kids is home for a long weekend, waiting for the smell of pancakes to draw them downstairs.

These are the best mornings. No one has to be anywhere. No schedules to keep.

I wasn’t always able to wander down and casually grab a mug of coffee. The mornings used to be filled with diaper changes, morning hugs, sippy cups and plate after plate of pancakes. But still, we were home and the kids were happy. And we had coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

As we started our family, we had no idea how it was going to go. We knew we wanted kids. We hoped for a large family. What we were blessed with was a super-sized family. When we were engaged, Kevin said something like, “Let’s have four and we’ll see how we feel after that.” That sounded good to me. I wanted more, but I appreciated the opt-out if I was exhausted. I have such a vivid memory of my first morning at home after Abby (#5) was born. Keegan, age 2, climbed up into my bed with his sleepy, blond curls and asked to hold her. I laid the baby in his chubby arms and he looked up at me with the sweetest smile and the biggest eyes.

I turned to my husband who was getting ready for work(there’s not a lot of time off after the fifth one) and said, “I’m not done, yet. There will be more babies.”

Kevin just smiled. Truth be told, he was worse than me.

We both agreed on me staying home… that was what we felt was important while the kids were young. It may not be the choice for everyone, but it was right for us. If I am to be completely honest, I wish more young families would choose to try it. There’s a beautiful challenge in making it work on one income. You have to live frugally. You have to give up things for a few years…sometimes longer. But you learn to work togeher…to appreciate the little things like an evening out to a cheap restaurant. It was hard some days, making ends meet…trying to find extra money for things. But it was the path we chose and I believe the kids look back with appreciation. There were no fancy vacations or expensive cars. I won’t pretend that I didn’t dream about them once in a while, or wish that our cars were newer. After all, I’m human. But for the vast majority of days, it was exactly the way I wanted it.

I came across this article recently…read on for more great thoughts:

Why Free Play is Disappearing in our Culture

Mammals are innately playful. Our large brains and complex social structures require that we learn vast amounts of information in childhood to help us thrive in adulthood. How do mammal children learn all of this? They play. But it’s not just any play.

I wanted the kids to be able to stay in their footie jammies for as long as they wanted when they were little. I wanted them to get to have time in the mornings to think about their day. What would they play? Would they play alone or with their sibling? Would they play dress up? Color?

So many kids are being raised to go from one structured activity to another. Daycare to preschool to before-care to school to after-care. When do they just get to sit on the floor in their footie jammies and quietly think about the direction they want for their day? With no direction from anyone. Just their thoughts.

These decisions may seem insignificant to many, but I disagree. These decisions shape who our kids become. Introvert or extrovert? Actress or teacher? When you leave kids to their own entertainment, sit back and watch what emerges from pure, unstructured play.

You’d be amazed.


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