When our boys were little it was easy–almost too easy–to spend time with them.
GAME PLAN: Enriching Experiences (& Adult Connections)
While I was looking to enrich their experiences, I usually benefited from a little adult reprieve and relief. (There was also the added bonus of watching other people’s children occasionally act like animals…as well as my own.)
As they got older, I became the sideline parent. I organized carpools, managed snacks, and drove outrageous distances (it’s all relative) on weekends to meets, matches, and time-sucking tournaments. Our family manifesto stated that each child would play a sport and an instrument. (They could rotate as desired as long as both sides of the brain were activated.) Everyone learned how to swim, even if he never got in the water on purpose after he became safer near it.
GAME PLAN: Divide & Conquer
We tried as much as possible to keep them together (or divide and conquer). Todd and I like to be together as a family, especially on weekends, but this wasn’t too difficult since they are so close in age (if not skill level). We also found fantastic communities and made incredible memories at Glendale Little League and Milwaukee’s Uihlein Soccer Park. We found Andy, the incredibly talented (and kind) music teacher who could play each of the instruments the boys (and Todd) chose. On Saturday mornings he gave them individualized lessons and then they jammed with them collectively. All of my husband’s dreams had come true.
GAME PLAN: Five for the Price of Two
Then Simon and Noah found Tae Kwon Do. After discovering that once there were two paying family members the rest were free, I dragged Gabe and Benji to a class to strengthen their own characters. I realized that this was the ticket–we could all exercise our mind/bodies in one place at the same time—even me. Hallelujah!
To this day, Girton’s ATA was the most diverse community we have ever encountered. The student mix of ages, abilities, colors, beliefs, and interests learning together, from, and with each other was a dream. Kids taught adults (mine included), adults sparred kids (each learning focus and self-control), and many of us competed together at the national level for years. I spent almost every afternoon with my kids, becoming our best selves, enmeshed in another family by choice.
GAME PLAN: Invite Them (All) Here!
Then our kids started to hone in on their own interests (and drive). Our door was always open to their friends, and to my delight, we often had a houseful of teens. They would joyfully entangle themselves on a sectional or scream at each other in front of the PS4. Snacks were abundant in the Kirkland Cabinet and there were always extra spaces at the dinner table for random, ravaging teens. Although we have never had (or allowed) alcohol to be brought into our house (I am a recovering alcoholic), we have always been very fortunate to be respected and trusted by our kids and their friends. We have worked hard to show them the same.
GAME PLAN: Stay Connected
Since they started to leave town for college, though, it has become a lot quieter in the house. We have also had to up our game to find more creative ways to connect with them. Fortunately, through the resources we found to support us all, we built relationships that made slipping into their daily lives easy, fluid, and comfortable. We have always enjoyed their friends and taught them that we are all doing the best we can. Compassion for unknown variables goes a long way.
Today we are blessed to have the ability to work remotely and the finances to travel to be with our kids (and their friends) as often as they will allow. We spend time on their turf (the best place to be with them for quality time), experiencing together what they (and we) love to do. We try new things, make new memories, and happily hang with their newfound, growing tribes.
Sometimes, like yesterday, though, they are open to joining us on our turf. They willingly choose to experience the things that we love to do, too–trying new (and retrying old) skills, and hanging with our own newfound, growing tribes, too.