This post is an accompilation of blog posts about the importance of spending time with the kids. Posts are from 2006-2013. After that my kids were teens and our family went through the horrors of divorce. I am very close with my young adult children. They are the best of friends. The time I spent with them when they were young, made all the difference in the world as we went through the hard teen years and the worst part - the empty nest. I hope these insights will help you as parent of young kids to understand the importance of making time for your children and each other.
(Originally from 2006)
My husband was fortunate enough to get some time off at work to make it to our daughter's Christmas performance and then go skating with her at her skating lesson Christmas party. My husband isn't the overly happy type, life is always bearing down on him and he sometimes gets so bogged down he forgets to stop and spend time with the kids. Recently he took the time to build snowmen and have a snowball fight with the kids and soon 15 minutes turned into the whole afternoon. It had been a long time since I'd seen him so happy and relaxed, he finally realized that life would always be there, but the kids wouldn't.
We are fortunate to live in Canada, but we don't always feel that way. When you have everything and nothing but time on your hands its so easy to look around for things to complain about. We don't appreciate the little things because the little things are common place for us. We are so focused on what we don't have, we have forgotten to appreciate what we do have. We are so obsessed with what we perceive others have, we forget that they have problems too.
We get so busy trying to maintain our lifestyle, or make our way up the social ladder we forget that what we have is most precious. Ever look at a family or a couple and think, 'wow they sure have it all figured out, life has sure been good to them.' 'Why aren't we like them? Why does life dump on us and shine so bright on others?'
Sometimes I think we should be happy and content with our lot in life. After all, we have it better then 90% of the world. My husband is employable, our kids are amazing, we are healthy, and have money in the bank just waiting to buy a house. What more could we want? Why do we allow things to pull us down into a mental rut? Can we find joy in paying bills? Can we enjoy housework? My husband can get so focused on everything that needs to be done, those things that weigh on his mind, he misses out on so much joy. Specifically, he misses out on spending fun time with the kids. Sometimes they are the only thing that can bring us joy when the tedious parts of life are getting too much.
Can we ever get off the hamster wheel? Everyday he heads out to work doing the same thing he hates to do day in and day out. Everyday I clean the house, do laundry, do stuff for the kids, and my to do list continues to grow. There is always something to do, bills always come in the mail, work is always there, kids always need to be fed. However, life is what we choose it to be, it can be the dreary drudgery of the day to day rut we find ourselves in or it can be joyous, it all depends on what we focus on. Making time with the kids a daily event will help keep us happy and remind us why we work so hard the rest of the time.
I am thrilled my son who hates water and doesn't like to swim is finally swimming - without the aid of a life jacket. He's 9 and the fact that he is not a fish when it comes to water is a huge contention with me and my family because we are lake people. I lived in the lake growing up and my dad did before me and his mom before him so how could my child not like to swim?
I had put him swimming lessons but after the 4th time with no improvement at $35 a session I finally said enough is enough. I have tried to force him to swim and throwing him in to get him used to the water... I know it has the opposite effect but sometimes I just get so frustrated that I throw him in with his life jacket on. OK it's not a life jacket ... his personal flotation device which everyone calls a life jacket due to it's common use as a life jacket.
My first day visiting him at the cabin we took the boat across the lake to swim and I started to swim back to the cabin to see how far I'd get ... I'm extremely out of shape and the thought of exercise makes me tired. My son (in his pdf life jacket) started swimming with me after 2 hours we had made it over half way before a strong current in the water stopped our progress. I was extremely proud of him because he did so well in really deep black water without freaking out.
Today he was aloud to go into the lake without his life jacket as long as he didn't go out over his waist. The next thing I know he's swimming without any aid of a life jacket and not just for a few strokes but for a decent length of time. I was so thrilled, this was big for him and such a relief to me.
Now if I could just get him to put his head under the water we might have another fish in the family.
Visiting the kids has been wonderful. We seem to arrive in my hometown, Endery, to visit at the same time every year -- For Enderby's Mardi Gras and Legion Days. The kids love Mardi Gras and look forward to it every year. Last night they attended the charity Mardi Gras carnival that raises money for the local organizations.
They love to play all the carnival games and the charities in the area need the support from outside families like ours. They had dinner, ice cream and won some prizes that would have been cheaper to buy at the dollar store. They even won a dance competition with Gramma. Last year was busier then this year, they had shut down main street last year and this year it was off to the side. The event was still lots of fun for the kids even with the heat.
Enderby is a small town with limited resources so to most city people it won't be as flashy as they are used to. The Mardi Gras is a symbol of a community coming together and supporting itself best it can.
It's only been a week and a half and I miss the kids so much I want to jump in the car and drive the 6 hours just for a hug and kiss. It's been so long since they were even away from me a day that I don't know what to do with myself now that I have time for me.
I have been busy looking for work but it hasn't taken up all my time. There's work like going through all their toys and sending the bulk of them to goodwill. I can only do chores for so long though.
My husband and I are having a good time and things are getting done around the house but it is so quiet. I now know what retirement will be like -- I better get some more hobbies.
You know that list that most mothers have put together in their mind. You know the one, the list of everything you'd do if you had a moment to yourself. I get to live the dream and all I can think of is what are my kids doing and I wish had some money to go shopping.
My son (he's 9) misses me and my daughter (she's 6) is just fine, loves me but will see me when she comes home. I want them both to have her attitude but at the same time I'm selfish - I want them to have a miserable time because they miss me so much.
My daughter says she's OK because she has her brother. Gramo loves having them at the cabin and because they pretty much take care of each other she finds it really easy. This morning she was sleeping when I called and the kids had gotten up, my son got them breakfast and they were out playing. I've always encouraged them to do things for themselves, right from when they were little. Now they do things for each other and it make parenting so much easier.
Kids can do more than parents give them credit for. 3 year olds can put on their own coats and shoes, they just need to know how. Put the coat on the floor with the inside facing up. Have your child stand at the neck of the coat, bend down put their arms in the arm holes and flip the coat over their head -- VOILA coat is on.
Shoe's on the wrong feet? So what -- will it really damage them? Help them put their shoes on the right feet by getting shoes with images on each side of the shoe. Explain which image looks at the world and which ones talk to each other. If they put the shoes on the wrong feet just ask "Are (the inside image) talking to each other?" Don't tell them they have them on the wrong feet, just ask them questions that will enable them to figure out how to tell which shoe goes on which foot themselves.
I'm fortunate my son teaches my daughter how to do stuff all the time. I was shocked when I discovered she could read Little Critter stories before she left Kindergarten -- my son read to her almost every night and taught her how.
By empowering them to figure out how to do stuff for themselves they have developed the skills of teaching each other.
It's been raining for days and cool for months so when today was so nice out it called for us to be outside. Today called for a family bike ride. Taking a couple hours to spend with the kids biking all around our neighbourhood was great! There was so much to do outside and inside but today we choose to make time with the kids a priority.
I had wanted to take them to movies in the Park last night but we had a thunder shower and I fell asleep on the couch before the carnival started. I heard it was lots of fun and well organized. We can't do everything, but its important to do something.
This morning I took our son to his ball game and came home to my daughter helping her dad build a workbench. It was so cute and she even helped drill the holes. I wish he'd do more things like this with the kids, include them in his chores. I also should do that but my patience runs out too quickly because my priority is to get the job done. I know the kids need to be apart of my daily activities but I fail. That is why family time every day is so important even it it's only for 1/2 hour.
We went to the Okanagan for the weekend to get away, I haven't been there since we moved back to Calgary last November. It was nice to get away, the drive is about 6 hours one way. The journey was great and the kids didn't bicker at all.
Thank goodness for Nintendo DS!
Even without the DS' they've been great on trips. They like the same things and my son is very patient with his little sister. If there are any problems it is usually because she is being bossy.
They've been making the trip on a regular basis since they were born and we take lots of long car trips so they are very used to entertaining themselves in the car. I always have stuff for them to play with or do, even a TV/DVD set up. Of course candy and snacks are a must with water to drink.
Both of them have a long attention span, when they were younger I had to put more choices and more stuff into the car for them to do. Now one or two DS games is enough to keep them entertained for the whole trip.
At first my parents were very critical about TV in the car, but if it keeps the fighting down to a minimum who cares!
What things keep your kids entertained while in the car?
My husband and I floated down the bow river for a couple hours today. We started at Bowness Park and got out at Eau Claire. It was so nice to just float and enjoy the scenery of the Bow. It brought back a childhood memory of going down the Shuswap River with my family as a child.
When we go to pick up the kids in a couple of weeks we'll probably take a trip down the Shuswap River from below the Eddies/Chucks up at Kingfisher to Enderby. This is a full day trip and I haven't done it since I was a kid. I still remember how much fun we had as a family that day. We only did it once the rest of my childhood summers were at Mabel Lake.
The Shuswap River from Mabel Lake to Enderby is beautiful and full of wildlife. It is a part of the Okanagan that is green, quiet and rural. To go down the Shuswap river at that area you have to go in down of the eddies and chucks because they are class 5 rapids where people have died. The rest of the trip is tamer with mild rapids and then slow moving waters. The river is warm and on a hot day you can jump in and ride the river in a personal floatation device.
The Bow river is not as pretty and does not offer the variety of water speeds that the Shuswap does but when your in Calgary it is something to do in a dingy. The kids will love it and it will be a cheap family activity.
I am looking at pictures of my kids when they were younger and I wish that I could turn back time. This was my daughter when she was 2 years old, I loved that hat and Old Navy dress on her, it was a sad day when she outgrew them.
I was fortunate I was able to stay home because we had an in house daycare that brought in good money. Yet it wasn't enough time and I feel I didn't get enough time with that cute little face.
Every age is special, every age amazing, I am enjoying her as a little 6 year old girl but I miss that 2 year old girl too. She is strong willed and likes to have things her own way and didn't always get along with the other kids. Like any 2 year olds she needed a lot of extra attention and I rarely had any me time. Now I get lots of me time and I miss her attaching herself to me every minute of every day.
Young children are lots of work and it is only natural for parents to wish they had more me time and can't wait for their child to grow older. However, once they have you can't turn back the clock - no matter how much you wish you could.
This is why I love my scrapbooks, they are a record of my memories and my thoughts about my children. I started them with the goal of expressing how much I loved them, my dreams for them, advice I wanted to pass on in case I died they'd have a piece of me to hold on to. Morbid huh!
I love them so much and I tell them all the time, I also have taught them to express their love for each other. However, each day that passes they grow a little more independent and want to spend more time with friends and less time with me. I'm not alone, I'm sure every parent wishes they could turn back time.
We left the kids with my mother in law in Vancouver for a week. She commented that the kids are so close that they needed to stay together. She is so right, they protect each other and more importantly they entertain each other. While we were there my son taught my daughter how to play 'What Time is it Mr. Wolf.' He loves to teach her how to do stuff, it's so cute and makes my life so much easier.
My husband and I have taken full advantage of the time we have together. Going to dinner, watching movies and going out on dates. Since we don't have family in Calgary and don't have a babysitter we don't go out much so this time together is extra special.
Date nights are important because a family needs parents that are close and happy to be close and happy. When you don't have much money though what can you do? I'm always a fan of bike rides and walks. However there are other free events going on in Calgary that are fun, for example, Shakespeare in the Park at Prince's Island Park. Lots of things going on downtown Calgary and Stampede always has something going on for both adults and families. I am looking forward to spending time with my husband enjoying Calgary until the kids come home.
After spending a week in Vancouver at Nanna's house they are off to Grammo's house in the Okanagan for 3 weeks. They will live at the Cabin swimming and boating, they'll have a great time. I grew up at the Lake and I know they'll make some wonderful memories there with Grammo and Grandpa. I miss them but it is very important that they create strong bonds with their grandparents and they live 6-12 hours away from Calgary.
Since they go there together and spend time away from us together they develop a closer bond. They gain independence and confidence by going to their grandparents without us and have been doing so for a long time. As a stay at home mom I get lots of time with them, the grandparents don't get enough time so these visits are important to the whole family.
I am sad, my little girl doesn't like Dora the Explorer anymore -- she's too big now. She was smitten with Dora the Explorer at the age of 2 and couldn't get enough of her until now -- she's 6. Her 3rd, 4th, and 5th birthday's had a Dora the Explorer theme and all the toys she received during that time were Dora toys.
Since we are trying to down size I need to sell off stuff, toys being the number one item on the list. I just finished packing up all her Dora the Explorer Toys and I've had to say good bye to my Dora.
She has dark hair and we cut it short like Dora the Explorer's hair. Everyone, even strangers kept calling her Dora because she reminded them of her. Being the little shopper that she is she wanted everything Dora the Explorer. Whenever we were in a store she could find the Dora the Explorer brand no matter how far away in the store. Even if she didn't have her glasses on, if there was a Dora the Explorer item in the store she'd see it, even if it was across the store.
She wanted everything Dora, then we she met Dora the Explorer at Universal Studio's Florida. She followed Dora around for a long time, we took lots of pictures of our Dora the Explorer with the real Dora the Explorer. On her 5th birthday, after we had arrived home, Dora the Explorer called her to say "Happy Birthday" and every little girl was impressed. We booked the call through www.nickjr.com and it cost only a few dollars. The company that handled these calls was uvox. You can send emails from Dora the Explorer to the birthday child via nickjr.com, but the phone call option seems to have disappeared. If they did cancel it it is too bad because it was worth it to see her eyes open wide and her jaw drop as she heard Dora saying "Happy Birthday."
Now she loves Hannah Montana and I'm pricing all her Dora the Explorer toys for sale. Time is flying by and she is getting bigger so fast. I love her so much and I try to remember when she's bugging me for this thing or that thing -- soon she won't need me at all. She's getting to be a little tween dancing and singing to Hannah Montana's CDs and the Dora the Explorer posters are replaced with Hannah Montana's face. I'll always miss my Dora but I'm also looking forward to getting to know my little Hannah.
Today we went bowling, something I haven't done in a long time. Bowling is a great family activity and the best part, it's affordable. It cost $20.00 for the 4 of us to bowl one game and it took us an hour.
It was my son and I vrs. my husband and my daughter. I got 3 strikes so we won!!!
Bowling might sound like a boring blue collar thing to do, but it is lots of fun. The most important part about any family activity is that you do something on a regular basis. The more different activities you have at your disposal the more fun it will be for every member of the family to participate.
It was nice to have my husband home this weekend to spend time with the kids. He took our son to a custom car show one day and played xbox with our daughter the next. The best though was bedtime, every day I read to the kids before bed. On Sunday night after reading we played a game of monopoly the kids verses the parents. It was a lot of fun and the kids were so happy, much happier then they've been since he went north to work. It felt like a whole family again.
Game nights where all the family members play together is a fun way to build a close family. "Families that play together stay together" Here are a couple of our favorites:
Crainium Family Fun Game
This game needs at least 4 players to play as it is a team game. This game like the original uses lots of different traditional games to make an updated action packed game. Draw pictures, Complete challenges, guess actions and answer trivia questions. Each card is full of fun challenges that you get to work together to complete. Increases skills, motor functions and brain activities and at the same time having fun and spending time together as a family.
A classic that is always a lot of fun. With the huge selection of themed monopoly games you are sure to find one that will fit your families interests. Everything from t.v classics like "I Love Lucy" to today's t.v like "Sponge Bob Square Pants". Singing legends like "Elvis" to Brand legends like "Harley Davidson". The selection is as vast as any families interests. Whether your family is a Disney loving family or a sports loving family you'll find something.
Family games night is a special time your kids will look forward to because it is time with you as a family where the voicemail takes the phone calls and the tv is off. All attention is on each other, it is a special time for everyone.
My kids and I love to sit and listen to Adventures in Odyssey together and the stories are so wonderful and filled with moral lessons we can talk about. It is old radio theater and not TV so imagination must be used to know what's going on.
Produced by Focus on the Family it is centered around a man named John Avery Whittiker, not sure if it's spelt right. John Whittiker runs an ice cream shop designed for kids to learn, discovery and have fun. Every story is filled with moral christian lessons about things like, honesty, kindness, patience, love, and more. Every episode has a lesson to talk about with your kids. We love to listen before bed.
Try it out and see if your children love to listen to the stories. You can listen at oneplace.com There are lots of episodes in the archives and both daily episodes from the past and new weekly episodes. If your children are having problems in life with bullies or moral dilemas these stories are a tool you can use to help.
Do you have one child who gets in trouble a bit more than the other? One that is more talented, cuter, more popular? This is where things can get tricky. This is where time together gets more important then ever. Does one perceive that the other gets more or is more loved? Short of keeping a journal and list to make sure that each is provided the same amount of stuff, love and attention, it can be hard to keep perceived favortism out of the picture.
If your children seem to be unequal in gifts and talents, it is time for you to focus on the child who you perceive as having less. Time for you to put them into a variety of activities to find the one that they will shine in. Time for you to look and find the diamonds that need polishing and polish them. It's time for you to take a look at your attitude. Yes, your attitude. Do you view the interests and activities of that child as somehow not important, as lesser and not interesting to you? If a child loves something that you don't why should the child find interest in that what you are interested in? As the parent is it not your responsibility to make sure that you take in interest in what they are interested in. Ok so a night at the hockey game may be more fun for you but your child may be more interested in building models. Which do you think he would find most valuable and most esteem boosting? Time doing something dad likes to do or doing something he likes to do? I'm not saying that time with a child has to be all about their interests and talents, but the bulk of the time should be.
In today's world the amount of time we have for our kids is not huge, in fact it is a precious commodity. It is easier to spend time having fun with the child who's interests parallel yours, the trick is spending time with the one who is different, doing what the child likes. Showing an interest in both children's interests, talents and activities will help to alleviate the perceived favoritism attitude that will erode a sibling relationship.
If one child's activities will take up so much more of your day to day time and resources at the expense of the other child how will this help their relationship? After all sibling rivalry is the fight for you, your love, and your attention. How would you feel if your spouse came home with another wife or husband for you to play with and share with. How would you feel? It's easy to pass it off as sibling rivalry and as one child being a whiner or overly sensitive, but guess what... you are the parent and it is your job to teach them how to get a long.
Do your children fight over toys all the time? Maybe something else? What do you do when this happens? Do you insist that one gets the toy over the other? If you do you are in fact driving a wedge between the two and insuring that the fighting will continue. Never ever take sides, even when one is so far in the wrong it's obvious. By taking sides you start a me verses them outlook and the "mom loves you more then me" attitude will start to take shape. So what should you do?
If they are fighting over something, take it away, no one gets it. If they can't get along then they need to go to seperate rooms until they can. Both of them, not just one, no time outs no inforced punishments, no taking sides. They need to sort out how to get along with each other on their own, without you running interference. You are a parent not a referee. So if one is obviously the instigator then why should both go to their rooms?
Natural consequence for fighting is to go to their rooms, doesn't matter who started it or who's fault it is. If you start assessing blame you'll be playing the blame game for the next 30 or more years, who started it, who's to blame this time? All of a sudden you are no longer a parent, you are judge, jury and executioner. You are who they will come to in order to be proven right and you'll drive the wedge between them even deeper.
It's not about justice, it's about learning to get along and be there for each other. When they get out into the world do you want them to constantly be demanding justice and placing blame on everyone or do you want them to be able to get along with others?
When I became pregnant with my daughter my son was 3 years old. We had 8 months to talk about what it meant to be a big brother and how life would be different. When my daughter came my son was instantly 'in love' with her and we created an attitude of responsibility in him. He is responsible for taking care of her. When she was a baby she couldn't be responsible for him, but as she grew we started creating an attitude of responsibility in her as well. She is responsible for taking care of him too. He watches out for her and she watches out for him.
I am almost daily asking them to watch out for each other and to help each other. Every day I ask them to tell each other they love each other and communicate their feelings as much as they can. They do it now out of habit and automatically, each one caring for the other and worrying about the others well being. If one hurts or upsets the other, immediately it is their responsibility to make them feel better. I don't send them off to their room or have them give a half assed apology. They are responsible for making the other happy again.
By now you're probably thinking I'm loco and their is no way your kids will do this. I would have both of them stand in front of me and ask questions about what happened and then ask questions putting them in each others shoes, sorta speak. "How would you feel if he.... " In the end they would have to hug and say I love you. I would remind the one that made the infraction that it was their responsibility to make the other happy again, not mine. I didn't make the child cry, I wasn't the one to fix it, they needed to fix it.
I would give them choices as well, try to ask enough leading questions as possible to get to the end result. The main thing for me was to stay out of it. I didn't punish or fix, they had to do it themselves. If I stepped in as enforcer, I would be creating a wedge between them and not teaching them how to fix the relationship themselves. It takes extra effort and self control on your part, but in the end you will have a lot less headaches and a lot less work to do.
I was about to enter a new post in my WAHM support and resources blog when I had a sudden urge to start a new blog on raising siblings to be friends. As I sat here under my electric blanket, it's -46 outside, I could hear my son helping his sister with her kindergarten homework book - they are suppost to be going to sleep. I started to think how wonderful their relationship is and how amazing they are. So a new blog is born, raising siblings to be friends.
I have a brother and to say we are not friends is an understatement. We aren't enemies but we are far from friends, this was always an issue for me. So when I had kids, it was extremely important to me that they be friends and then siblings.
My kids rarely fight. I'm not kidding, they rarely fight and when they do it lasts all of 2 minutes and then they are best of buds again. I must be lying right? I'm not, they rarely fight.
I wish I could say I'm a brilliant parent that has unlocked the secrets of the universe, but I can't. I have learned and stumbled along the way, just like any other parent. We've all heard that kids don't come with manuals, well, that's not true. It is true that they don't come out the birth canal and say hey mom here's the manual for taking care of 'me.' However, walk into your local Chapters or search 'parenting' on Amazon.com and you'll find 100s of "manuals." Reading has been my salvation, that combined with experience and two great kids.
I think I'll have to split them up now, not because they are fighting but because they need to stop talking and get to sleep. I am hoping that over the course of blogging you will find some pearls of advice, some ideas, and coping mechanisms to help you raise siblings that are friends.