Tuesday, July 8, 2008
How do you make time for each individual child?
I don't think she knows me well enough to know that this subject rests near to my heart. I grew up in a large family and while I know that my parents love me, I don't think that spending time with us on an individual basis was a priority in our home. I was loved, well cared for, raised to love the Lord, but I knew that I wanted something different in my own home. For that very reason, I had only wanted to have a couple children, maybe three at the most. Obviously, God worked on my heart, and as my husband and I watched each child come into our family, we could not imagine having only one or two of these amazing people around us. So, now I face this challenge that we will all find a different answer to, how do I spend time with each child? Whether the family has one or twenty, this is something to consider. Even with one or two it is easy to get caught up in 'things' and not truly spend time with a child. Therefore, I don't think that this question belongs only in the larger homes. I doubt many moms have not at some time considered how to find balance in this area of nurturing relationships with our children.
While the answer will look different in each home, and in various seasons, I wanted to share a bit of how I have worked this into my day, as well as plans to continue more intentionality in this area. I would also love to hear how others have incorporated the meeting of this need into their own plans, routines, dates, times, or activities.
First, when I find myself busy with housework I try to call a child along side to talk, help, interact. While many hands do make light work, when any of those hands belong to a child, sometimes that maxim does not hold true. However, my motivation does not come from a desire for a shortened work time. I realize that in order to know my children, and build and maintain that relationship, I must make the most of every opportunity. Each day I have a designated "Cook's Helper" that helps prepare meals and set the table. This provides a great opportunity not only for one-on-one training in housekeeping skills, but more importantly, ample time to talk about life, laugh together, and share thoughts, dreams, questions, and challenges. I think both the child and I thoroughly enjoy that private time even in the midst of a busy day and active household. Similar to this, when either my husband or I have errands to run we will often take just one child with us for some special time together.
Second, in homeschooling I have worked into my schedule a set time with each child. This started for academic reasons, but has grown into more than that. I like to have individual time that comes in a variety of contexts because we different conversations in a school setting, and a cooking setting, and a laundry-folding setting, etc. Each environment opens different opportunities to mentor my kids, know them, and for them to know me.
Lastly, I like to close each day with time spent with each child before they go to sleep. Sometimes this takes over an hour, but it is well worth it. Lying down, discussing the day's events, so many topics come up and bind us together. This offers a great time to clear up any misunderstandings, encourage a vision for the future, pray for that child or their circumstances, and in general talk about life from the perspective and take the time to place it through a Christian world view. Those bedtimes are a very important part of spending time with each child.
One area I have often thought of, but have done little to implement, involves special outing with each child. This is something I would love to do on a more regular basis, but it is difficult to plan without taking too much away from together family time. I have never done it in an organized way because I figured I could never take each child out every month. That thinking failed to show me that the end result would be no outings, rather than the sporadic ones that I could have potentially had if I had at least tried. So, that would be an area that I would like to see develop. Even if I only take them out once a year (hmmm, maybe around their birthday . . .) that could be something looked forward to and enjoyed, and maybe it will grow to more.
At times I do wish I had God's ability to listen to each child as they talk over each other at the same time, and have a personal interaction even in the group settings. But, since I remain only human, in His design, I will continue to seek to have one-on-one time with each of my children both now and when they move beyond my household.