Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Two Feels Like A Crowd

When my youngest daughter was born it was understood that she and her sister would become "besties" that would share everything. This has definitely been the case for most of their lives. They've shared toys, clothes, and their room. They were virtually inseparable from the first time that they met. Recently, all of that began to change. As their personalities have emerged, their differences have become really noticeable. This means our parenting has been forced to evolve as well. Previously, my wife and I had our parenting game on autopilot. It was pretty much a safe bet that our girls loved doing everything together. Currently, we're dealing with one kid who is displaying the traits of an introvert and the other showcasing extreme extroverted tendencies. As many of you probably know, this can be like oil and water mixing at times. I am very proud of the way that my oldest has expressed her desire to do some things apart from her little sister. 

"After all, the whole point of family is to experience life together." 

It's not that she doesn't lover her sister, it's just that being homeschooled with her, playing with her, and eating lunch together everyday warrants a change of pace every now and then.  At times, I've been so focused on work and making sure I'm being involved with my family, that I'd overlooked their need individualism. My wife has been so focused on their education that the need for individual time easily slips by. We are both now fully aware of their need for independence. So, in order to help our kids be more balanced, we regularly implement the following: 

1. Daily Me Time: My family and I do things together as a family on a daily basis. While we all enjoy our time together, there is still a need to do those things they make us happy as individuals. So, we're more aware about giving that to our kids (yes even the extroverted child). We try to work in at least 1 hour a day to do something on their own without their sibling. This could be as simple as reading a book alone in their room or working on artwork.

2. One on One: As the leading man in my daughters’ lives it's important to nurture my one on one relationship with them. Since my wife works at home as a homeschool teacher, it's important to give her a break as well as the kids. So, I take each daughter for a treat or their favorite meal without their mom or sister on a regular basis. This usually ends up being about once a month. We talk about whatever is on going on in each other's lives. The conversations are happy and other times challenging. Regardless, of the mood, I can see each daughter emotionally recharge during our special time together. Not only does it give me a chance to have uninterrupted bonding time, but it also gives the other sibling a chance to be an individual. They feel safe to be themselves with me without interruption from the little sister or big sister. Often times, I've learned that some tantrums are just my kids' way of crying out for some one on one time. This one on one time is my daughters' first attempt at expressing themselves to a man. Please Lord help me to get this right!

3. Encourage Different Interests: At one time we signed our kids up for the same recreational activities. At their current ages, we see that playing a particular instrument might not be what the other one is interested in. It's ok if one kid excels at sports and the other one prefers art. Yes, juggling multiple practices and recitals can be challenging to parents, but that's the part of the parenting package.


4. Work Through It: Most of the time siblings have to just work through it when they feel "crowded out" by one another. All of the suggestions above can be in place, but let's face it, there are some days that family still just works your nerves. The most united families are made up people with very different personalities that don't always gel. So you figure out how to respectfully create healthy boundaries so everyone can feel the love. At my house that means the girls take turns pretending to be Barbie's mom. Successful families create ways to allow each other to be interdependent as well as independent. Healthy families need both. After all, the whole point of family is to experience life together. Co-existing means you don't have to do the same thing the same way all of the time. There should be equity in our families where everyone's interests get to be experienced by all. I'm not a crafty person by my wife and daughters are. Just the other night we all sat down to work on the girls' scrapbook for family night. Some of the best memories take place when all of the family is together (or apart temporarily), allowing one another the freedom to be themselves-even if it means doing things we might not enjoy for the sake of the other. In the end it's worth it because you've worked through life together as family