Tuesday, September 16

Connecting in the Chaos, Part 1

     Early Monday morning, in the middle of the 'get ready for school' shuffle, our oldest daughter grabbed me by the arms, pulled me close and said, "Mom, what did we do together this weekend?" 

     Oh honey, right now? Is what I thought. 

     "Oh, honey," I take a deep breath and  pause while I try to stop thinking about everything that needs to be done to get everyone out the door in seventeen minutes.  "Let me think about that for a second," I said. 

     She is very sensitive and is going through some pretty significant separation anxiety these days. With the start of a new grade at school and all that comes with that (new classroom, new teacher, unfamiliar students), as well as a change in classes at gymnastics and Sunday school as well (September is moving up month everywhere!), she seems particularly attuned to how often she is with me and how often she is not. She is a kid who, not unlike her mother, likes routine. She likes to know what's going to be happening where, when and how. 

     She begs me to stay at birthday parties, is verbal about letting me know that she doesn't like it when I'm not there for bedtime and several weeks ago when we picked her up in Sunday school at church, one of the childcare workers told my husband that she had been crying for a good part of the time and told them that, "My parents have a baby and we don't get to spend a lot of time together anymore, so I'm just sad." 


    If you're a parent you can imagine how sad, and maybe slightly embarrassing that conversation was. 

     She is a kid that needs to connect...frequently, and ideally one on one when where possible. 

    While Aubrey is less and less baby everyday, she's definitely still the baby of the family and one of our biggest challenges in having three children is trying to meet everyones needs on a regular basis. Try as we might sometimes it's incredibly hard to connect, in a meaningful way, in the middle of the chaos. 

    And chaos it is. A lot of the time. 

    Aubrey is a busy, busy, BUSY baby. A friend of mine and I were chatting last week about our one year olds-- hers who likes to snuggle and stay close by and mine who we categorized as a "runner". I like to think of her as one of those little silver balls in a pin ball game going boing, boing, boing, from surface, to surface to surface in a very hasty manner. 

    Just yesterday, after school I told Ava I would play a card game with her in an attempt to connect one on one for a few minutes. We tried to play a memory game until Aubrey came and upended all the cards and started throwing them around the floor. Then I tried to play a card game at the table until the baby climbed in my lap and tried ripping the cards out of my hand. I think we attempted to read a book afterwards and made it halfway through before the baby started pulling on my leg. Then it was time to to take Ava to gymnastics so we hurried into the car and shuffled off to the gym. 

    I felt so sad. I wanted to connect with Ava. I know she needs to connect with me. I made every attempt, but between school all day, and then homework, the baby, gymnastics and dinner...the entire night got away from us. 

    As for her Monday morning question-- it was legitimate to some degree. It had been a busy weekend. Scott's brother was in from out of town and we spent a lot of time with our extended family. She had fun baking cookies with her aunt, jumping on Grandpa's trampoline, riding scooters and playing with Aunt KK's  saved bins of American Girl doll stuff. 

    But, despite all of the fun, she seems to have a connection compass and is taking keen notes about her "connected" one on one time. 

   Knowing this to be the case I had been intentional about taking her home with me while the baby napped on Sunday afternoon. We did a craft together, chatted at the kitchen table and just hung out in the house alone ( I took a short nap while she watched Strawberry Shortcake). It was nice to connect with her and I know how much she appreciates this kind of one on one time. 

    I reminded her of that on Monday morning and she seemed to be appeased momentarily, though you could tell by the look in her eyes that she had been hoping for more. 

    Maybe this is an oldest child thing, or maybe she's more sensitive than others. I'm trying to be in tuned to her needs and proactive about connecting where I can, but sometimes it feels impossible to do as regularly as she would like, and even as much as I would like. Between homework, gymnastics, baths, meals and some general house upkeep-- not to mention a baby who gets her kicks by spilling rice, markers, noodles, and papers all over the floor-- oh and how about the poor middle sister who we find singing to herself as she colors in the corner-- what's a momma to do?! 

    So, I'm going to throw this out there as a question here and on Facebook-- I'd love to hear your answers!

    How, dear mommas, do you connect with your kids in the chaos of life with multiple children?! 

    I have a few things that we try to do on a regular basis, but I would love some new suggestions and ideas. 

    Because I know a lot of you would benefit from the ideas as well I will collect your feedback from here and Facebook and put it together with the few things we try to do and share it in my next blog post. 

    Hoping to hear from you soon! 

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