I wrote a post the other week about a scenario in our family where my oldest child, Matthew, broke down into tears one day because he was feeling more criticism than love from me. Poor guy. He needed a few mama hugs and then some… I admit, it is easier to come down hard on him because he is my natural-born leader. His example sets the tone for our family. He is my go-to guy for help. He paves the way for the rest of the kids–all of our experiences with him are new, which means they are often wrought with apprehension and anxiety as we face the unknown.
On top of all that, as older kids like Matthew grow they can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of a larger family. They are (usually) quieter, more independent and self-sufficient, more able to go-with-the-flow of family life. It is easy to assume that because their needs are no longer as obvious, they are non-existent, which couldn’t be further from the truth. As kids age, they need even more encouragement from their parents, especially as they begin to face real-life scenarios and worldly pressures. They need to know mom and dad are their biggest supporters. They need to feel the love of their family so that when push comes to shove, they’ll make the best choices for themselves. Thinking about raising my five children into and through the tweens and teens almost makes me want to run and hide. How will I tend to my older ones while still providing for the more regular needs of my younger children? Lord, have you given me more than I can handle?
One thought keeping me going is the possibility of pursuing date nights with my kids. I mentioned this in my previous post, but wanted to pass along a link I found to an article with a few mother-son date night suggestions including possible conversation goals. I’m hoping these will help–the chance for mom and son to spend some quality time together–away from the family, away from pesky younger siblings, away from distractions. I can see a hypothetical “date” like this being harder and harder to pull off as my sons age and I become less and less “cool”. But, these ideas are definitely a great place to start. I love the idea of involving sports–hitting tennis balls, kicking a soccer ball, or maybe attending a high school sporting event together.
Another valuable resource I’ve enjoyed lately is Kirk Martin from Celebrate Calm. I signed up for his weekly email chain, which includes anecdotes from his practice and wise words for parents. He is especially good at offering suggestions for raising “spirited” children. He also talks about practical ways of connecting with older kids. For example, he and his son, Casey, have a code for when they need to sit down and talk something through. It’s a “chips and salsa moment”. Dad says, “I’ll get the salsa” and Casey says, “I’ll get the chips.” Then they sit on the back porch and eat chips and salsa, hashing out whatever issue has come to the surface. It is their secret way of connecting and being sure they are communicating well through the bumps of life. This is awesome.
Whatever I do, I am willing to do what it takes to keep the lines of communication open. They can share with me and in return, I can let them know how much I love them.