Recently a reader wrote in with this question:
“How do you get quality time with older children while caring for younger children?”
This is something I intentionally think about on a fairly regular basis… how to work in time with them. As a homeschooler, it probably comes easier than it might if we were all running in different directions, but it’s still something I have to be purposeful about.
- When I run to the store, usually one of the older kids (12yo son, 10yo son, or 8yo daughter) will go with me. We talk about things, laugh together, make observations, listen to how their time in Sunday school went, time with a friend, or whatever.
- When I’m sitting on the couch, my little ones (6yo son, 4yo son, and nearly-2yo son) will come for snuggles, often. We tickle, hug, wrestle, play, give zuburts, giggle, use nicknames, etc. I find that my little ones need those constant snuggles…
…but my big ones need physical “snuggles” too, just on their level. Back rubs, hugs, shoulder rubs, sitting close together while reading articles, etc. Their need for affection hasn’t diminished. It just doesn’t look like tickles/zuburts/silly nicknames so much anymore. It looks more like time spent together with purposeful reaching out and wrapping my arm around their shoulder, etc.
- We read together, often. Kids snuggle in on each side of me. We do it as part of school, and not part of school. They sit alongside us in church and snuggle. This is not just something I do with my little ones as they’re learning to read, but with all of our children as they grow and mature. The books we read together go deeper and deeper, and it gives us a chance to sit together, connect about larger ideas, and grow alongside one another (this year, my 12 year old and I have been reading through Thomas Sowell’s classic, Basic Economics and had some amazing conversations as a result).
- With our big ones, as they are just 10 & 12, we are slowly, purposefully, including them in our adult conversations. They hear us talk about complex things — social issues, controversies– in the culture & community, and how God views these things. We are still cautious with some topics, but increasingly, they enter into our conversations and occasionally offer their thoughts and perspective on things.
- We play spades with them, and other games, and laugh and make memories.
- While we are serious about insuring adequate sleep, which means firm bedtimes (even for older kiddos), they get to stay up late from time to time & we’ll spend time together… playing games, watching a video, hanging out just the 4 (or 5) of us.
- I teach them to cook, and they have each become more competent in the kitchen and completely confident in cooking certain meals all on their own (spaghetti & meatballs, cornbread and milk). Of the older two, one of them is more bent toward meals, and one is more bent toward treats/desserts, so they each bless our family in different ways as they take on new skills. (My oldest recently remarked, while making a lemon bundt cake with a citrus glaze, “I feel like I’m on Masterchef Junior or something.”)
DAY BY DAY
We try to make these things part of our daily lives… it’s not easy. It takes time, intentionality, creativity, and some self-denial on our part, but it’s a good thing to invest in our kids’ lives.
It’s like Deuteronomy 6:6-9 talks about:
“these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is life together… all through life, all along the way, talking about the Lord, loving each other, spending time together, knowing one another better.
It does look different as they get older (and I’m sure it will look different still as they get even older than they are now), but affectionate, enjoyable time together is still an important of our time with our children, even while we raise younger ones.