Making time for family

Howdy, friends. Here is a sneak peek at my Sunday column:

I’m not big into resolutions for the New Year. It’s not that I’m against making changes – I love change.

It’s more that I recognize my own limitations. I’m super forgetful – I’ll never remember I’m not supposed to eat candy anymore, lose patience with the kids for being kids or put all my laundry away.

I’m writing this on Jan. 3, and I already broke all three of those resolutions, which I informally made quietly to myself a few days ago. I stress-ate candy New Year’s Day, when I worked from home into the night. Then I yelled at Jack, 5, and Viv, 3, Friday morning, when they refused to put their coats on while I loaded all our stuff into the car, late, again, for work and daycare.

And I should just give completely up on laundry.

My parenting style, frankly, is “beleaguered.”

I find it extremely satisfying when other parents tell me that they also fall apart regularly – or overdo things for their kids because nobody has time to wait for a preschooler to try to tie his own shoes. Of course, then we all sit back and say, at what cost? What are we teaching our kids when we do everything for them, because we’re all so late for work or working from home or burdened by other scheduling challenges? We’re raising a generation of infants.

Where’s my fainting couch? It’s all too much to think about. I need help even finding one set of matching mittens in this giant bin of disorganized winter gear. I can’t solve the world’s problems, too.

I’ve heard of people making a different kind of resolution – resolving to add something positive rather than take away something negative. We’ve talked a bit about that, too, in our house, in an informal way. And by informal I mean I’m trying to institute it, but since my husband and I see each other for about 20 minutes a day, I can’t explain to him what I’m doing. So we’re not really all on board.

Here are a few I’d love to try this year:

Family dinner. We always eat together, but it often is me making plates for us, then my husband making his own. By the time he sits down, I’m done. I go clean the kitchen and he finishes eating with the kids. I want us to all sit down, together, and eat and talk. I want dinner to be a time when we relax and enjoy each other (who am I kidding?) instead of a chore. It’s difficult to teach the kids to sit in their seats when we are both getting up and down from the table repeatedly.

Game night. We started doing an occasional movie night this fall. Viv, 3, is finally old enough to sit and watch, and Jack, 5, loves it. We cuddle on the couch in our pajamas, eat popcorn and watch a kid movie. Now, they both can play several games – including a fun bingo game called Zingo. Jack loves Connect Four, Old Maid and War. It will be a fun treat to stay up after bathtime and play games and eat snacks.

Date night. It’s really easy to not make time for your spouse. Blame time or work or finances or plain old neglect. But the most important thing we can give our children is the model of a healthy, loving relationship. And one way to do that is to make time for each other. Philip and I are terrible about this. It’s made doubly difficult by not having any family in the area (no free babysitting!), but there must be a way. We have to find it – I miss my husband.

Those three things aren’t huge commitments. But they matter. They (I hope) can strengthen our family bonds. They give us an opportunity to be together, having fun, being loving. They remind us that we’re all in this because we want to be.

So why is it so difficult?

Philip’s brother gave us a voucher for a fancy hotel night and a gift card to a restaurant last year – a special gift for us to use, and they would provide the babysitting (both gift cards are for the Twin Cities, where they live). We still haven’t used them. It’s been over a year and we’ve been unable to find a single weekend to take for ourselves.

Or unwilling. That’s probably more likely.

In 2014, I want to make the time for the people I love. I won’t be perfect every day. They won’t be, either. Marriage is a daily struggle with someone you love who drives you nuts. Kids dawdle and whine and color on items that aren’t paper. Work invades every minute it can.

But there has to be a way. If you see me, remind me I was going to look for it.

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2 Responses to Making time for family

  1. Dave Graves says:

    Excellent perspective. Thanks for putting yourself out on the line — good and bad — and pointing us to values we should all desire.

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