There is nothing like having one of my older children come to me in tears, wanting to snuggle, because they feel like they haven’t had much time with mom recently. As a parent of several children, it is very easy for me to go through each day, just getting things done, dealing with the urgent things and not ever actually seeing the people I’m serving. I can go to bed at night and know that they all ate food and had clothes to wear and probably had some learning happening at some point.
But when I am stopped by a child that just needs a snuggle, it makes me stop and think that maybe, just maybe, I need to reevaluate how things are going. And reevaluate the priorities that I’ve set.
With our little guys, their needs are immediate. They have a dirty diaper (I really wanted to write nappy, since that’s the word I use at home, but I changed it for our primarily American audience :) ) , they are about to pull down all the books off the bookshelf; they just covered themselves in mud and are trying to get back in the house. Those things need to be addressed immediately.
My bigger kids are quite different. They are able to take care of all their own toilet needs. If they pull the books off the shelf they have to put them back. And if they happened to be covered in mud, they can take care of their own showers.
But their needs are a little more subtle and easily overlooked if I’m not careful. So what do we do?
A habit that I’m currently working on is to take a big kid with me whenever I go out. If I’m running to the store to buy milk and bananas, I’ll take a big kid with me. They usually aren’t super thrilled to go to the grocery store, but we both enjoy strolling through the aisles, just talking about whatever. And if we happen to make a quick stop at the library on the way home, even better.
I have one big child that tends to wake up a little early. Our household has a “stay in bed until 7am” rule, but this one will often come out about 6:45 and ask “Can I just snuggle next to you?” I’m usually on the couch with a cup of coffee and my Bible and computer, so I have some room for snuggles. I know, I know, I’m not being consistent with the rules. But you know what? That child’s love tank is getting filled up every time I say yes to the early morning snuggles and I’m good with that.
It is not uncommon for us to put the two little guys to bed a tad early and let the big kids stay up a little longer so we can spend some time with just them. My husband likes to watch movies with them, all piled on our giant beanbag, while sharing a big bowl of popcorn.
I have recently assigned each of my three big kids to be a meal helper each day. This means that they get to make some choices about what we eat, which they love. My breakfast helper is very excited (NEW WORD) that he can now use the Vitamix all by himself. They get one on one time with me, albeit while doing some work, and I’m able to train them to be independent in the kitchen at the same time.
One of my friends will ask one of her big kids to walk with her to the mailbox, just so they can have a few minutes alone together.
My husband really enjoys working in the vegetable garden in our backyard. Whenever he has work to do he will snag a child to come outside with him and they are always happy to get out there and help dad.
I’ve learned that with a big family we don’t have the ability to do lots of special activities or go on special outings with our kids, one-on-one. But we can make use of the things that happen everyday to strengthen our relationship with our kids.