We’re together all the time, but I feel like I never actually SEE them as individuals.
By “them” I mean the swarming, laughing, screaming, hungry herd of children that rumbles through my house day in and day out. Occasionally, one pops out his or her head with a complaint, a request, or a funny story. Otherwise, they stick pretty close together.
As a result, I’ve been treating them like a collective unit. “Everybody, go outside!” or “Everyone, go upstairs and clean your room” or “Guys! It’s dinner time!” I expect them to move en masse from one activity, or chore, or place to the next. A lot of time, this works out fine. They might grumble or get distracted along the way, but eventually, they all move to where they need to go next.
Until that is, one of them doesn’t. My daughter will quite strongly slam her foot down and let me know, “I’m NOT GOING!” Or, my son will scream, “I never get to do ANYTHING I want to do,” and run to his room and hide.
I realize then that I need to step back and see each child again.
Has this time together gotten to be too much? Do the kids need some “social distancing” at home? Some time apart now so that they can enjoy being together again later?
After all, one of them has been asking me to read with her for half an hour. But I’ve been so busy saying “in a minute” while I clean the kitchen that I haven’t done it yet. Another one has been trying to build with Legos in his room. Now, he’s crying because the baby keeps ruining his creations and won’t leave him alone. And my daughter has been asking me for the third day in a row to make slime with her, but I keep putting it off because I know the toddler will make a huge mess.
Just because they are all kids doesn’t mean I can keep them together all the time. We all need breaks, and these days breaks don’t come naturally. There is no time at school to play with your friends without your siblings tagging along. There is no break for me to read with the younger two while the older kids are at school. There are more of us at home all the time and fewer places to seek some space from the pack.
So we’ve decided to plan breaks for each kid. We’ve started Grandma/Papa Days, where each kid rotates having special one-on-one time with their grandparent for a few hours. I’m also consciously using the toddler’s nap time to play or read with some of the older kids instead of furiously trying to get a million chores done. On weekends, my husband and I try to swap some time with kids – even if it’s just a few minutes to read a book with one of them.
The point is, the kids don’t need (and sometimes don’t even want) a huge amount of time alone. Sometimes, they “just need a minute.” By incorporating breaks for everyone in the day, it helps all of us from getting burnt out. It helps us enjoy the abundance of time together if we get some time apart. It’s a little bit of “social distancing” from one another while at home.