There are strengths to this, undoubtedly, but I also need to be mindful of the danger of turning our family life into a soulless, list-ticking, military operation. I try to harness my love of lists and planning to make sure that we keep the fun. If I write "art" on the timetable, it reminds me to plan an art session. The children have a couple of hours of creativity, and I can still mark something down as completed. Plus, of course, I make sure I actually leave enough time for our project, and that we have the right materials.
Another area that I know could become squeezed is one-to-one time with each child. This is a key opportunity for me to spend time with a child individually, and gives them a chance to have all my attention on them for a little while. It may be a moment for deep conversation, but usually it is just a time to show that child that I really care about them.
This is not easy to do. Our days are full, and, actually, most of our evenings too. One day a week is my husband's day off, but recently we have found these pretty busy - especially for me. I'm sure that many others feel similarly, and that slotting in one-to-one time with individual children is just one more task that is difficult to squeeze in.
Here are some principles that we loosely follow so that we can manage to make it work:
1) Short and regular is better than infrequent big gestures. This is more realistic, and I find gives more opportunities for those special chats which are so key.
2) Short and realistic is fine! At the moment, I have a "special book" that I am reading with my 5 year old, and another with my 7 year old. It takes an extra 10 minutes a night with each child, but they really look forward to that time.
3) Under promise and over perform. For example, I have told my younger two that their "special book" will be read when I can, while mentally planning to read it every night. This means that they don't feel horribly let down when I can't manage it, and they are extra chuffed if I read a bonus chapter one evening.
4) Share the fun. My husband is currently watching an episode of Dr.Who once a week with our eldest. They both enjoy this equally, and it gives me best part of an hour to get stuff done while knowing that they are having a bit of bonding time.
5) Work together. Our children all love being on their own helping one of us. If my husband has to go to the supermarket or, better still, Pets at Home or Ikea, he will make a child very happy if they can accompany him. My 9 year old will always be happy to help me in the kitchen, and will enjoy any chance just to chat about his favourite books with me while we cook.
6) Be sacrificial. After a long week, a game of Uno may not be my first choice of activity, but it may be a few minutes of fun that is of great value to my daughter.
7) Share interests. Taking a child to a book shop or a museum is a joy - especially one child rather than shepherding four. I have done both these things with my older two occasionally, and they have been good times.
8) Big trips out have their place! They can't realistically be regular - but they create a wealth of happy memories. I took my 9 year old to see the pandas in Edinburgh zoo at the beginning of the year, and he will often walk with me and ask if we can talk about our trip for a while.
9) Look at photos together. Our children all enjoy a bit of time looking through a photo album with one of us - remembering happy times or special places, and talking with us about the good times we have had together. Particularly if one of the children is feeling a little sad, this can be quite a positive activity to do with them, and helps them to chat to us.
10) Everything for a Season. There are times when one child will need a special investment of time, and periods of life when I can't do everything. We do what we can, when we can, and accept that these things will ebb and flow a reasonable amount.
|Fun with my daughter!|
Spending time with our children is a great blessing for us, and for them. It will deepen our relationships with our children. Furthermore, I find that often it is in these short moments that I will gain insight into a particular need or struggle of a child, or that I will be able to talk to them about the Lord. This doesn't happen every time - most are fairly ordinary - but the more of these brief, special moments there are, the more opportunities there are for discussing the deeper issues of life and of our faith in Jesus.