The latch turns. The door shuts. Backpacks and jackets are flung to the floor. And then quickly picked up and put in their right places (yes?). Everyone's home. Oof.
Since when did our kids start having such long days? Ever since they went to preschool, that's when. And ever since they started making friends and having play dates, joining activities, tagging along on grocery runs, and playing out in the yard or playground until dusk. They are busy folk, these kids, though not yet as busy as their parents who tend to jobs and homes as well as children.
But what a change from the days when our babies were little! Back then, we were with them all day long. Even if it was just for a few months of maternity or paternity leave, we were there. We knew the rhythms of their days, and were connected moment to moment through a steady stream of looks, touches, babble and talk, feeding, comforting, taking in the world together and drifting to sleep.
Not so these days. Until, that is, the door shuts at the end of the day. Then, we're back together again and it is time to reconnect. But how? How do we retrieve that sense of closeness and understanding in the short window before bedtime?
A few ideas, none terribly original, but all worth reiterating and remembering:
Quiet time. Back from the hustle of the world, parents and kids all value the relative serenity and privacy of home. So when kids retreat to their rooms to play or read, take it as a sign that home is the refuge it should be.
Family dinners. Experts of all stripes laud family dinners as beneficial to school performance, emotional well-being, table manners and family connectedness. Family meals are also a logistical challenge when a parent works late or does not share the kids' food preferences. But even if "family dinner" simply means sitting down with the kids and talking while they scarf their broccoli, its completely worthwhile. Try these Savvy family dinner activities to add to the fun.
Cuddling. The thing we used to do tons of with our babies and a lot less of with these bigger kids is cuddling. And yet, they still crave it and, frankly, so do we. So make time for a big old snuggle at the end of the day. It will make the kids feel secure and connected faster than anything else.
One-on-one time. As families grow, affection multiplies but intimacy can sometimes decline. Making time for one-on-one conversation and activities is the best antidote, for both parents and children. A parent might take one child out for pizza while everyone else stays home, or could simply make time for a quiet conversation with each sibling before bedtime. It is in those cozy, private moments that the secrets and worries of the day emerge.
Storytelling. Stories bind us together, in whatever form they take. Reading with the kids is key, of course. But we also love homegrown tales, known only to our family, invented on spur of the evening, with input from all. When we go our different ways in the morning, we can all keep those stories with us all the day through.
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