After a long Christmas break, with two additional 'dangerously cold' school closing days added on, my kids finally went back to school yesterday. The tears were abundant. The begging to stay home, to be home schooled and for more and more hugs left me feeling sad. I wanted to close my eyes and ears to their tears.
I will be the first to admit, I never understood the moms who were sad when their kids went back to school after Christmas or Summer vacations. I get that part of that reason is they didn't have to wake up so early every day and lug their kids to school, but for me, my husband usually is the first one to get up and get the first two off to school, so that was never been an issue with me. I hugged them, fixed their hair and waved goodbye as Daddy brought them to school. But many moms miss the time with their kids. And as much as I love my children, that has never been a problem for me. Because weeks spent with my kids home means weeks spent breaking up fights, weeks of demands on my alone time, weeks cleaning up constant messes, making endless bowl of cereal and pancakes. In general it just seems to be a lot more work.
When the kids head off to school, I have time to clean, to gather my thoughts, to run errands alone. It's my selfish time perhaps, but I never let myself think of it as selfish, because afterall, for the most part, I work my life around my children. I have 3 people, well 4 if you include my husband, who depend on me and they are never left without food or without hugs or without snuggles or I Love Yous. My life revolves around and is dedicated to other people before myself, so how could I possibly be selfish when I want some time alone? Some quiet time.
I don't really believe I am selfish, don't get me wrong. But I do enjoy my space now and then.
But this time was different.
Maybe it's because the kids each had a new tablet to play with from Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas so the fights were kept to a minimum, and the house stayed moderately clean, or maybe it's because they are getting older, but I found this break time with the kids home oddly calm and I can honestly say this is the first time I was anxious for them to stay home a few more days when the 'dangerously cold' school closings were declared. I really enjoyed the time spent with them at home and felt sad when I knew they were headed back.
We had a simple laid back Christmas. Not as many presents this year, not too much running around like usual and a lot more time just hanging out with each other.
Many days when all three kids are home we are breaking up constant fights, and I have mentioned this before but a lot of our family time is somehow spent separated to simply avoid the stress. One of us will take the girls, one of us will take the boy and we will each do our own thing, because Wes and Jada just can't seem to stop arguing and tattling and all the physical battles that come with kid fights, so it's easier on us to just keep them separate.
Or, if we do go out together, we would make sure they stay stimulated. You know a movie, Chuck E Cheese, a theme park, the fair, but then again...there is always more they want. They want to play more, they need more coins, they want one more ride, they want to play one more game and it becomes a battle of parent versus child and the repeated "NO" over and over until one of us finally gets upset because "NO" is simply not a good enough answer for kids, as we all know.
But there is something I realized in the past year and have been taking it to heart a lot more lately. Family time doesn't mean entertaining your kids or keeping them busy or spending money on them. Family time is best spent when you are present with them, laughing with them and playing with them. It definitely seems the most appreciated. Sure we have our 'discussions' over what things they 'want' and are not going to get any time soon. We have unmet demands by them and they seem unhappy and unsatisfied with us as parents because we won't or can't give them everything they want.
But somehow, the time spent with them makes children and families forget everything else in the world and cling to one another and cling to love and laughter...
Things and outings will never replace love and laughter and presence in a family setting...
Last week, my son was supposed to go to school 2 days earlier than my girls were supposed to start back and he was feeling nervous and anxious. He was crying, sighing and it wasn't stopping anytime soon. I kept trying to talk to him about how there is nothing to be nervous about. Nothing bad has ever happened at school, but nothing I was saying was helping. He would come and kiss me, walk out the room I was trying to work in, he told me I am a good mommy and 2 minutes later he came back in crying about school. I already let him stay home an extra day because I felt bad that the girls got to stay home and he didn't, so I couldn't fall for the tears this time...but I was having a hard time talking him out of being sad and scared.
I resolved to tell him if he let me finish what I was doing, I would play a game with him when I was done...and in the meantime, I sent his dad upstairs to play with him. He sure loves Mommy. Mommy is the one who talks him through life, through sad times, who snuggles him most. But he often makes requests that "his dad" spends more time with playing with him, so Daddy it was. At least until I was done. Then I went upstairs and took over, while Jeff played a game with the girls in the other room. Eventually their game finished, and they all wandered in Wesley's room where we were playing and everyone wanted to join. The joy on our kids faces when we play a family game together is indescribable. The laughter and the remarks about how much fun "family game nights" are over and over ...are worth the time and effort away from our phones and our televisions and our computers.
The time spent with my son and my family helped him get his mind off his worries, it kept my kids from fighting, (and from making messes, by the way). And best of all it kept them happy with nonstop smiles on their faces. They didn't ask for anything else. They didn't ask more more toys, more coins to play games, more video games, more money, more downloads, more online memberships.
The only thing they did ask for is more time with us as a family. When the night was over, they didn't want to stop.
And those are the kind of moments our children will cherish and will remember. They won't always remember the trips to the zoo, or chuck e cheese or six flags, but they will remember mom and dad spending time with them....
I gotta say, I'm happy with how life is turning out with this little family of mine. I know there are still bumps ahead. I know I still have to face the teenage years and more complaining and fights, but my goal, my life's resolution is to make sure we always spend quality time with them, not just truck them off to this place or that place to keep them preoccupied, but to really meet their need for love and acceptance and that they would know that we are always available to them in whatever they struggle with. Our job isn't to just keep them from bugging us, but to help and nurture them in their lives. They are not here for us. (Even though they bring so much joy.) We are here for them...