I still have a bit more from our trip that I want to share with you, but I'm going to take a break today and do something different. I am going to start doing a blog hop with the people at Hearts at Home. This happens the third Thursday of every month and the topic that each of the bloggers will be writing about will be related to home and family. This month's topic is connecting with your family... how do you make time to stay close?
As children get older and start to be involved in more things outside the home, I find this a bit challenging. It could be so easy for everyone to be so busy with their own schedules that doing things as a family can fall by the wayside. There are a few things we have done to try to mitigate this.
The first, and I know I can sound like a broken record about this, is we eat dinner together as a family every night. It is pretty non-negotiable. Oh every so often a child will have a babysitting job or an activity that takes them away from home during dinner, or J. will have to teach a night class on a certain day of the week for a time, but for the most part we are all together. It means that if there is a class or regular activity that sounds good or someone is interested in and that class meets during dinner, we just don't participate. Dinner together comes first. This hasn't really been a problem with our children. They like eating dinner together and they know what the family rules are, so they rarely ask to do something which would overlap. It is also one of the things M. misses most about being at school, and I think she and her new roommates are going to try to eat dinner together on a somewhat regular basis. It's just nice at the end of the day to be home with people you like and share a meal and discuss the day.
Another thing we do is to schedule in family activities. This has become important as people start to have independent schedules and doubly important if you have a college student. If it isn't scheduled in advance, it probably won't happen. So, if I want everyone to clear their schedules to do something all together, I need to think about it in advance. Take our New Hampshire trip we took last week. At the very beginning of summer, before summer jobs were settled, I had everyone block out that week. I knew we wanted to do something even if the final plans weren't made. I do the same thing at Christmas. If I want everyone to be home to decorate the tree, I put the date on everyone's calendars well in advance of December.
Lastly, since the theme of this seems to have become maintaining family time with older children, is to sometimes do things with just your older children. For us, that means having to pay an occasional sitter to stay with the littles, since all of our babysitting is usually handled 'in-house'. But, the times we have done this have been a lot of fun and really allows for conversation with our older children that just can't happen when there are a lot of little people around. We love the little people, but they can be a bit loud and needful of attention a lot of the time.
Of course, this all assumes that no one person or child in the house has been allowed to over-extend themselves schedule-wise. If a person's schedule is so tight that even planning ahead for things does not allow for flexibility, then I believe you need to take a hard look at what your commitments are and ask yourself if they are really all that important. When you look back at your children's growing up years, are you going to be glad of the time you had together or are you going to regret that you hadn't said no to more activities so that your time was more free to spend together as a family. Activities, classes, committees, good works can all be good things, but often the time spent together as a family is the better thing.