Staying home during a global pandemic means there are times that my house feels awfully small with six of us home full time. It’s been difficult to give my children individual attention when it feels like we’re living on top of each other. Once I begin a project with one child, another one wants to join in. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s made it harder to make those connections with my teens where they feel important and heard. They take it in turns to be gracious with their time me with me and share it with their siblings, or they become frustrated because the younger kids are more demanding of my time. Despite this, we have found ways to strengthen our overall familial bond without losing our sanity in the chaos. And believe me, our house never seems to stop humming. Between the littles taking out every single toy and our teens staying up later than usual the house never seems to settle.
Here are the activities that have helped us strengthen our familial bonds.
My husband calls these walks our “Klondike” walks. No, we aren’t looking for Gold in the Yukon territory. Our Klondike walks involve an ice cream bar as we walk around the neighborhood. During the spring and summer when the weather is warmer we each pick our favorite ice cream treat and take a family walk. There’s something about ice cream that makes the kids more patient and amenable as we amble along on the same route we’ve taken hundreds of times. It’s not a long walk, but it’s just enough time for the kids to share what they’ve been thinking, pick up sticks for walking or pretend sword play, or having an impromptu race to the end of the street. It’s time well spend time without any expectations
Sundays are for Star Wars
From the 6 year old to the 42 year old, we are all Star Wars fans. When the pandemic began we made it our mission to start the saga and watch it every Sunday. We started with the original trilogy and we have been slowly making our way through the saga, including Rogue 1, Solo, and the Mandalorian. Having this routine of Sundays are for Star Wars brings a sense of normalcy and shared interest in this unusual year. In a galaxy far, far away we have found comfort as good triumphs over evil. As the Rebel Alliance fights against the Empire, we find hope. Together we cheer for the good guys and look forward to the next week’s adventures.
A benefit and a gift from the pandemic has been family dinners. Often we are going in a million different directions with extracurricular activities and are able to have a family dinner maybe three times a week. That has all changed with the pandemic. My husband has been working from home and well, there are no more extracurricular activities outside of the home. It frees us up to have dinner together. Another bonus is that we are able to eat dinner earlier and have time to linger over conversations at the end of the meal. While the two younger children ask to be excused, we have found that this is time our teens are able to get our attention without the distraction of their younger siblings. The teens are growing so fast and they have a lot to share. Being able to find this time to get to know them and their perspectives has strengthened familial bond. The big kids feel more mature and they like this is time where they can talk about topics that interest them.
Running with my Kids
Running has always been “me time.” I found that finding time to go outside for a run or sneak downstairs for an episode of Schitt’s Creek while I’m on the treadmill gives me enough to recharge my batteries and helps me be a better mom. A downfall of the pandemic is that my children have not been able to participate in their usual sports programs. They spend less time outside and less time being physically activity. While I cherish my solo runs, I have found that taking a child with me as a running partner has given us uninterrupted time to chat, listen to a shared audiobook, and just simply spending time together. While they grumble and groan about going, they usually say that it wasn’t that bad and we enjoy that rush of endorphins and one on one time. It gets us out of the house and breaks up the monotony of the day.
Train Tracks and Legos
My younger children have dug out our old train set and legos, spending hours carefully building tracks and a new world. They have put their creativity to good use. Together they have designed an entire city. They are putting those engineering skills to good use and flexing their imagination. It’s been fun to listen as the younger two share their ideas and plans as they expand their world. It’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional creative difference that leads to a bit of bickering, but more often than not they’ll find their way back to the basement to continue with their project. They are learning those soft skills of communication, teamwork, critical thinking, organization, social skills, and creativity that will serve them well when they go back to learning in person and working with other people.
Listening to Audiobooks
Library buildings are closed which has led to a lot of digital checkouts. One of favorites is to borrow a family friendly audiobook and listen together. The best time for a good audiobook listen is the time before dinner. Everyone hangs out in the family room playing, creating, or working, and we listen to an audiobook. We’re currently re-listening to the Swindle series by Gordon Korman. Jonathan Todd Ross is a great narrator. All of my children ages 6, 9, 12, and 14 find the series interesting and the characters relatable. They like hearing the adventures proposed by “The Man with a Plan,” Griffin Bing.
We’ve all lost a little something when the pandemic began. We felt at loose ends as our activities stopped and we haven’t been able to see our friends and family. The forced time together has encouraged us to get to know one another outside of our extracurricular activities. In some ways, it’s given us more room to breathe and to relax. And while it’s not ideal to be living in the middle of a global pandemic, I am grateful for the time it has given us to get to know our children and to spend time with them without being distracted by outside obligations. As a result, we’ve only gotten closer. What a wonderful upside to a hard year.