Last week, with Mother's Day approaching, I decided to give my family some guidance as to how I wanted to spend the day.

I know lots of moms who want nothing more than a break from their family obligations on Mother's Day—to be pampered or to simply get some down time alone. All great ideas, and believe me, I've been there too.

But this year I decided that the Mother's Day gift I most wanted was a perfect day of being a mother. There is no one I'd rather be with than my family—there is no greater joy than what they bring me. So I told my husband and three kids that I wanted them not to think of it as my day, but rather our day to spend together, effortlessly.

Of course, that's easier said than done. Every other day of the year, being a mom involves a lot of planning, rushing and worrying. To make Mother's Day all about the family joy without any of the family stress—now that's a trick.

What to do?

After a long, cold winter of being cooped up inside, spending Mother's Day outside was a no-brainer. So once I saw that the weather was going to cooperate, I decided that the bulk of the day should be spent in the park with all of us running around and playing games.

Not exactly your average Mother's Day fare, I know. But I'm a huge believer in the importance of active play for the kids and of getting them in the fresh air as much as possible (weather permitting). At my house, on weekends, I try to get the kids out by 9 a.m. at the latest. Regardless of the time of year, getting out early—while our bodies and minds are still fresh—and running around in the fresh air makes such a difference for all of us.

But as every parent knows, getting everyone dressed, fed and excited about going outside is easier than it sounds. And as my kids get older, I find that outdoor adventures have tough competition: television.

My kids are like most—they have TV shows and videos they love, and they will sometimes plead with me to turn them on. And to be sure, I'm okay with a little supervised television. In fact, I like to watch their shows with them and talk to them about what they saw. It's fascinating to see what kids of different ages (mine are 7, 5 and 2) absorb. And I admit that sometimes a short TV break can be sanity-saving for parents—when the chips are really down!

I try to resist TV as a virtual babysitter, however. I worry that if television becomes their primary source of entertainment and stimulation, active play will start to get crowded out of their day. And while television can be absorbing, fun and hilarious, it is passive. Television happens to them, not with them. Outside, however, even the simplest activity engages them in imagination, exercise and observation.

So back to Mother's Day…

After a wonderful start to the day—a nice, healthy breakfast made by my three children (with a little help from their dad)—we packed a bag with bottles of water and healthy snacks for our day in the park. We brought balls of all sizes for games we made up. We had pads of paper and pens to write clues for a scavenger hunt we created. We stayed out until dark, stumbled home exhausted, read our favorite books, told stories and all went to bed by 8:30 p.m. My perfect day—our perfect day.

And the TV stayed off all day long.


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