Kids grow up. That’s what they do. If you feed them – which it’s illegal not to – and time passes, they will grow up.
The older they get, the busier they (and you) get. I remember when our biggest concerns were how many books to read before nap time, and making sure the room was dark enough so they would “sleep in” the next morning. (Ours have always been insanely early risers, so yes, the quotes are necessary!)
Now, they have homework from school, friends they want to play with, activities ranging from sports to theatre, and church to help them grow, learn, and hone important life skills. All good things, but with each kid (and I happen to have four) comes all these things and more. You know what? I kind of just miss us all being together!
Considering change is often just a choice away, we decided on three things to incorporate into our family schedule, all with the goal of helping us stay together as a family group. Full disclosure: this didn’t (and still doesn’t) come without eye-rolling, long sighs, and Napoleon Dynamite worthy exclamations of sarcasm. BUT the end result is totally worth the hassle of pushing through.
Forced Family Fun
Yep – this is exactly what it sounds like. We periodically declare an evening of Forced Family Fun where everyone has to do the same thing together. Why pretend that they have a choice when they don’t? We have kids spanning 7 years, oldest to youngest, so finding things that the little guy and the big brother will both enjoy can be tricky. But choosing something that the whole family can participate in is crucial. The goal is to foster INTERACTION.
- Floor or table games: Apples to Apples, Farkle, Golf (a card game), Skip-Bo, and Imagine If are some of our favorites. Some games the little guy can do on his own with just a little coaching. Others he gets to choose whose “team” he wants to be on.
- Active games: We like Hot Box (a baseball game), family basketball with the Little Tykes hoop in the living room, Guess the Animal (a game with no speaking just acting – like Charades), and our family favorite: Hand Hockey. (We play in the living room with each wall being a goal. Then we scoot around on our butts and slap the soft ball with our hands, trying to score. It’s actually quite a workout!)
Read a book out loud and discuss it. Do a family walk or hike and see how many different colored or shaped leaves you can collect. Have a group painting night. Be imaginative and do it TOGETHER! One time, every one of the kids and the adults was given a blank sheet of paper with coloring supplies in the middle in between us. Then, we had everyone design their own flags for a made-up country. We shared the name of our country, the flag and what it stood for, and what animal is native there. We had such a great time!
Whatever you choose to do, Forced Family Fun will – if not right away – eventually be enjoyed by all. Even if you have a grumpy-pants in the group, at least they are grumpy WITH you!
Sunday Night Dessert
Bribery works. It’s not something I use every day, but it can be a very useful tool in your mothering tool-belt if done intentionally and periodically. (It works for moms, too! Offer a nap, coffee, a massage, or dark chocolate and I’m your gal!)
For Sunday Night Dessert, we gather over a special sweet treat (the bribe) and talk about the upcoming week – what the parents have going on, what the kids have on the docket, how everyone is feeling about it all. Sometimes it’s short and sweet, while other times we use it as a “family meeting” time and talk about something more serious. Everyone gets a chance to share because everyone’s voice is important. We end ours by praying together and then go into the week as one united front and (hopefully) a force for good. Do we meet every Sunday night? Nope – but we aim for all and meet more often than less.
Finding Friend Families
Are there families in your circle that everyone in your tribe enjoys? My husband and I started to be more intentional about finding Friend Families – people that everyone cheers about when they see them on the calendar. I say “intentional” because you may have to make this friendship happen.
We know a family that we used to see often because we had kids in the same sports. Since our kids are slightly different ages and don’t attend the same schools, we no longer frequent the same circles. So, we decided to make them our friends! (Sounds more like Forced Family Friendships!) Seriously, investing in friendships that everyone in the family can enjoy keeps you together and keeps your schedule more manageable as well! I realize this isn’t easy. You can’t just wish this into existence. But keep your eyes peeled for families that you’d like to “friend” and then make it happen.
We still drop the kids here and there for time with friends individually – some distance can be good. But driving around in my minivan for hours as the she-shuttle is NOT my number one priority. And when I know on a Saturday we’re all going to the same place and everyone is happy about it, that means my life just got easier – even if just for today.
I like my family. I like my kids. But reality is every day that goes by, is another step closer to them growing up – something I want them to do. I mean, that is the whole goal of motherhood, right? To love them while you have them, and to teach them ever-so-gently-and-firmly how to become those kind, confident, world-changers we all know they can be. But today, tomorrow, and while they are still mine, I’m gonna keep them close and squeeze every bit of memories and joy out of this six-person team we call family. Hey – they might even want to come back and visit me someday. I sure hope so.