Big families can be so loudly beautiful, strength in numbers, a buddy at the ready for any adventure. In the months leading up to our unexpected expansion from a family of three to seven, one of my most pressing concerns was having that individual time with each of my boys. It was one of my first thoughts, how would I make them each feel special and loved?
In truth, it was hard in those early years with a four-year-old, and infant quadruplet boys, and often I felt like I was failing by my own definition. At the same time, it was a season of intention. I learned if I wanted to make something happen I had to plan for it. If I wanted to show my oldest I am still here for you, while everything has changed, nothing about that has changed; I would have to create space for us to be together. It is hard though isn’t it? And sometimes seems impossible? Sure things were most definitely not the same despite my best efforts, but choosing doable things, like reading the bedtime story and playing the board during naptime, stuck with him.
Through the years since those early days, I see my intention waiver a bit when we are in the flurry of all the things—school, church groups, sports, activities, music lessons, add to the difficultly in carving out that special time with each child. Not to downplay the collective, together, family time that is so important. It seems though there is much concern when a new sibling is born, as we want to try and keep as much as possible the same. And they still need us as they grow, even more so, but they may not be as vocal about it, and their time at home becomes less over the years. Then there are those seasons when sickness or other difficulty requires one child gets more of all resources, and I have come to understand that it is okay, this ebb and flow is simply being part of a family, a lovely, learning part of taking care of one another.
More than the large, production-like moments, when asked, our boys will mention the smaller, stolen moments within the days, as ones they crave and treasure most.
Small Sacred Moments
Have sushi for breakfast! Maybe not, this is just my reminder to say yes to their requests.
One slow-paced summer morning, my son asked to play his favorite new card game, Sushi Go! Immediately, I could think of a string of reasons not to, but they were weak. Saying yes to playing the game while he ate his breakfast, brought him such joy and the biggest smile to his face. Say yes to fun.
It takes a dash of intention and a bit of letting go of my agenda to create fun, everyday moments that can mean so much to our boys.
Write to one another back and forth in a notebook.
Do things out of order in the day, like family game night in the morning.
Take a twilight bike ride in pajamas.
Grab a pizza for dinner and head to their favorite park.
Steal away while the little ones nap to read with the older siblings in a fun spot, the trampoline, a pillow fort.
Take them to that place where your feet stick to the floor and you can almost see the germs, it is their time to call the shots.
Play their favorite video game, no complaints.
Throw the football around without instruction or tips, just for fun, same with the game of one-on-one in the driveway.
Grab dinner at their favorite spot where you can talk and laugh.
The older I get the less likely I seem to say yes, so it’s good to surprise them, say yes to what they can already hear you saying no to. And if you miss an opportunity, don’t dwell on it, look for or create the next one.
Close-to-Home Creative Expeditions
I like the term creative expeditions from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way for Parents. These are smaller, more local trips, sometimes that you work up to through shorter excursions, and once the children are older that they can join in the planning.
Visit an apple orchard.
Attend a mom and son hayride.
Create a scavenger hunt ending in their favorite spot.
Plan an overnight outing to your local museum or planetarium.
Catch a play or a concert they choose in a fun venue.
Let summer linger into fall as we take time to get away for a bit and savor the taste, sounds, and smells of such a bountiful season.
There are the times to call out all the stops, and make the dramatic, memorable celebration. An indulgent day. I find we usually do the more expensive and bigger things at milestones. When my oldest turned five we took him to Great America, to ride roller coasters all day. Next year he will become a teenager, and to mark this milestone, he and I will use airline miles and find a place to stay near the ocean to honor this time of growing older, just us.
Later this month my four share a birthday, their golden birthday, and I always feel that pull of wanting to make their combined birthday individually sweet. And as they run their outlandish ideas past me, I am reminded it is their day, and how they want to spend it will be how they make it their best day ever.