When BigBrother started school, I was worried about how our relationship would change. As a stay-at-home mother I was used to having him underfoot 24/7 and I generally liked that! He was with me for three meals a day; how would he handle eating lunch at school? While our school’s starting time is quite reasonable, it ends rather late in the day. Would I have any time to spend with him, especially with the demands of three other children?
In the end, I shouldn’t have worried. Yes, our relationship did change, but that is because relationships are fluid and ever changing. Yes, I do face some challenges because he is away from me at school all day and is in activities after school. However, we’ve managed to remain close and still have a close relationship.
One thing I have done is have lunch with him at school. Sometimes I bring my lunch from home, and sometimes I surprise him with fast food. I enjoy seeing him interact with his peers, the younger kids get a kick out of it, and he enjoys the special attention. (Note: Ask your child’s school what their policy is about adults and non-school-age children joining siblings for lunch. Some schools have policies in place as to what type of foods can or cannot be brought into the lunch room.)
Although I am busy with the younger children, I volunteer at the school. Volunteering doesn’t mean that I have to be at the school with busy little people in tow. I help plan class parties, something that can be done via e-mail at night or by meeting with other parents off the school property. Many teachers have odds and ends that can be done by parents, like putting together class books or cutting out lamination. E-mail or call the teacher, and ask if there is anything you can do to help that can be done at home. Chances are, they will jump at the chance to have some of the “odds and ends” taken care of so they can concentrate on lesson planning!
When my children get home from school, they are usually starving. I have a high-protein snack waiting for them and wait until they eat to ask them about their day. When BigBrother was in preschool, we were hit with a very cool fall. I served hot cocoa and muffins for an after-school snack often that year; now, on the cold and rainy after-school days, I always have hot cocoa and marshmallows for the kids and tea for me. It’s become a sweet (literally!) family tradition.
Another way to stay connected is to eat a meal together. If your children are much older, it might be hard to plan for dinner time, so make breakfast the big sit-down meal. In our family, I menu plan and have dinner time flexible. I often cook part of the meal after lunch or assemble the casserole well before dinner. It’s easier to get a hot, healthy dinner on the table and eliminates the rushing to the store for last-minute items or fending off hungry, whiny children as I try to follow a recipe. Yes, sometimes we eat quickly or eat a picnic while watching baseball practice, but we still eat together and chat about our day.
Our days are not perfect, and some days I feel like all we do is rush to and from school, home, and activities. Yet most days we remain connected and loving and communicate well, even with school taking up much of our day!
How do you remain connected to your older children?