Tuesday, February 7, 2012

grown up stuff

Back in December, our family went through a change.  I knew that it was coming and in fact, we had some experience with it already.  But for whatever reason, Mark and I both realized we had moved from physical parenting to emotional parenting.  By that I mean, when kids are little parenting is mainly physical.  You deal with feeding, napping, diapers, sleeping at night, potty training, hands are not for hitting and those types of issues.  You are mainly taking care of your kids physical needs because they can't do it themselves.  As kids get older, the issues become more emotional in nature.  You are facing issues like feeling left out, friends not being nice, mean words, the desire to fit in, being made fun of and those types of emotional issues that kids face in the big world of school. 

I remember friend's of ours telling us that little kids had little problems and big kids had big problems.  At the time, our boys were 3 and 1 and their kids were 15, 14 and 12.  We took this advice for what it was, the voice of experience.  Fast forward four years and we both realized that all of the issues we had been facing as parents recently were bigger kid issues.

As kids become more independent, they are trying to figure out how they fit into the world and as parents we are not always there to help them interpret situations.  And when kids make bad choices or choose a harder path than you would choose for them, it is left for us to help deal with the fall out.  And there is always fall out to be dealt with.

These issues (I'm choosing the protect the privacy of my children and not discuss specifics here) kept coming up.  One child kept making choices that were getting him in trouble.  The consequences kept piling up but still the behavior remained.

My mama's heart was pained.  Mark and I had many late night discussions.  We prayed. I sought the counsel of other mothers, asking questions like 'did you ever deal with xyz', 'how did you handle xyz', 'how would you address this issue'.  We prayed about it.  I talked with the teacher.  We prayed.  We talked with the child in question.  We changed the consequences.  We prayed.  I consulted pinterest (just kidding here, but wouldn't it be great if you could design a room, find a cool DIY craft, get a new look, make a fabulous meal AND figure out parenting issues all in one place?!?)

It was a difficult time for me.  I was struggling.  And I knew that these issues we were facing were not life and death.  Not as big as issues that would come up when our kids were older.  But what I struggled with was did we (or have we) built a solid enough foundation with our children to survive the future.  Have we equipped our kids well enough. 

One thing that Mark and I decided was imperative for our family was creating blocks of intentional, one on one time with each of our boys.  This is impossible for us to do in our home.  So we decided to start weekly date nights.  We alternate the child and the parent until each child has been out with each parent once a month.  So for example, on the first Monday night of the month Mark and John go out to eat, on the second Monday Mark and Luke go out, on the third Monday John and I go out to eat and on the fourth Luke and I go out to eat.

We let the boys pick the restaurant and they can order whatever food they want.  Which usually means they pick chocolate chip pancakes and a soda.

Some nights we go with an agenda of what we want to cover.  Sometimes we just go to talk and to find out what is on their minds.

This has taken some getting used to on the part of the boys.  They are not used to time apart from each other and the rest of the family.  Luke kept asking if mybrudderJohn could come.

Since it was around their birthday's I took a list of questions to ask each boy.  I have done this for the past 3 years on their birthdays and find the answers to be pretty amusing.  Also, since they are with me all the time it was a good way to get conversation going.

I asked Luke after he got home from his dinner with Mark what they talked about and he replied 'grown up stuff'.  Mark later explained that Luke talked non-stop for about a half an hour and then looked at Mark and said 'Okay dad, we can talk about grown up stuff now'.

We know that this is just the beginning of these types of issues.  But we are praying that by being proactive and creating intentional, purposeful time with each of our boys that we are creating relationships with them that will help equip them to make the right choice in the future.   One of our favorite parenting verses is 'a man reaps what he sows'.  We have tried to explain this to each boy as it relates to their words, behavior and choices.  We are now hoping to show them with our time that we are sowing seeds into our relationships with them that will reap lasting benefits as they become the men God wants them to be.

What have you done in your family to create intentional time with each child individually? 



noreen said...

Hi Anne,

While I was reading your post, I was thinking how important it is to have an open communication with your children. So, when the time comes for the bigger issues, they will feel comfortable coming to mom and dad for advice instead of trying to manage on their own. And then staying calm while they tell you and resist the urge to become a drill sargent!

We have one son, so my husband and I work on spending time with him individually. He is with me much more so than his dad. My husband is good with tools so will take our 11 year old son to do some jobs like "clean the gutters, cut sheet metal, put in a part on our dryer...etc." My son loves this time as long as he's busy doing a job... and not just the cleaner upper!

Donna said...

That's awesome, Anne! We have a difficult time getting the kids apart as well - as spending one on one time with us. I love your idea, though - may have to work harder to implement!
I just caught up on your blog - so many great posts! I need to do a post or two or six!

Hannah said...

We aim for dates too, it's hard and we don't do it enough but we do try.

It just keeps getting harder too...Still it has deeper blessings and smiles but I'd be lying if I said the teen years are always easy.

LisaD said...

awesome and inspiring!