I have a lot of kids. Well, by most people’s standards. Perhaps if I were the Duggars, at 19 Kids and Counting, six children would seem like a pathetically small amount. But to me, many days, six children feels like a lot. One of the hardest things with this many children is making time for them all.
We do the basics pretty well. The children know they are loved. They are where they’re supposed to be, generally when they’re supposed to be, with the equipment they’re supposed to have. They are clean and well-fed and their clothes are clean at the start of the day. They display manners (at the very least when they’re out and about). We even make time to play with them as often as we can.
But one thing about life in a large family is that there’s not much time to go around. I’ve posted before about making time for yourself and your partner, but it’s also important to make time for your children. I use the phrase make time rather than find time because given how busy we all are nowadays, if we wait to find time, it will simply never happen.
Today my daughters and I spent some time together learning how to decorate cupcakes with MarziAnn – Designer Confectionery. I have all the artistic ability of a newt, and my bonus daughter is equally talented, but my 13-year old daughter is extremely deft with her hands so I was pretty sure we’d all manage to have a good time. At 13 and 15, I have to say that the girls were well above the average age of the children in the room, but none of us cared. Two hours of working with sticky fondant and we had some awesome looking cupcakes. Did they look like the demonstration version? Well they weren’t TOO far off. Did we have fun? Absolutely! Was it a nice way to spend a couple of hours together? Definitely. One of the best things was that it was time out of our normal week and something a little out of the ordinary.
So that’s one thing you can do. Book a time out of the normal to do something. Last weekend, the girls, Master 11 and I walked Round the Bays. A few weeks before that, the husband and son number 1 went for a scuba diving lesson. Those are all special events, things which we plan out, budget for and rearrange the schedule of all concerned.
But there are little, free, spontaneous things you can do often. One of the small boys and I have walked up to get the fish and chips the last couple of Fridays. Just the two of us for 15 minutes walking to and from the fish and chip shop. Conal commented “I like it when it’s just the two of us Mama,” as he slipped his little paw into mine, so I know that they feel that the time is special and they do appreciate it.
Then there are the endless car trips to take children places. I read an article once that said that time in the car or running errands doesn’t “count” as time spent together. Clearly that person doesn’t have more than one child, or is independently wealthy. For the rest of us, we’ll take any time we can get one-on-one with our kids. Master and Miss 13 (NOT twins, they’re one of his and one of mine) are water polo players and last year had multiple practices at a pool a 20-minute drive away. Those drives, especially after the practices when it was late and dark, gave great opportunities for us to connect and strengthen our relationships. We took turns taking the kids out, so each got time with them.
My husband coaches Master 11’s cricket team, and before that, coached Master 13’s team. I coached Miss 13’s netball team for two years. We try to have one parent (of the 4 available) at any game of sports the big kids play. It is important to us that the children understand that we are proud of them and wish to support them in their endeavours, be these musical, sporting, school prize-givings or productions. We want them to know that we are interested in their lives.
We keep an eye on Miss 15, our very self-sufficient girl, and find things to do with her like playing games, watching rom-coms together (my tolerance for these has significantly lessened as I’ve grown older and more cynical, but I’m enjoying sharing the old ones with her, and taking her recommendations on recent ones), sharing and discussing books with her (or her sharing them with me!) and just letting her stay up a bit later and chat to us about her day.
We are even more aware of this with our twins. As they’re the same age and developmental stage (give or take) it’s very easy to treat them as a unit, just for convenience. But our two small boys are very different. We take them out one at a time on errands, so that they have some one-on-one time with a parent. I left the husband playing Samurai Warrior on the Wii with one of the small boys this afternoon – I’m not sure who was enjoying it the most! One of our small boys loves to work hard and garden and dig, so my husband often does that with him while I do some inside job with the other.
We don’t always manage this, and some weeks it feels like we haven’t seen anyone (each other included) in any meaningful way. But like everything else, we do try! There’s a lot of parenting advice that I’ve read about successfully navigating the teenage years and one of the key points is that if you have a strong relationship and good channels of communication, your chances are much better of getting through with less issues. To my way of thinking, making time for your children, one-on-one whenever you can, gives you the chance to do this, and along the way to build a long and lasting loving relationship for their whole lives.
Oh, and the MarziAnn cupcake decorating course? I highly recommend it. Great tutor, excellent facilities and explanations and even the two 4-year olds who were with us were able to produce beautiful cupcakes that they were very proud of. The girls and I are planning a return visit to do Piping 101 – all so that we can make beautiful birthday cakes for the small boys!