Last year, in the midst of our long adjustment to life as a family of four, my oldest daughter and I began a tradition. Her last day of kindergarten was a half day, so after I picked her up, we headed to Chick-Fil-A. Over waffle fries and lemonade, we made plans.
My daughter has observed many meetings I’ve had in various jobs over the years, so along with pretending to be a doctor, a rock star, a teacher or a scientist, she liked pretending to work on the computer and have meetings “like Mommy.” When I told her that she and I were going to have our own meeting, she was over the moon.
And when I told her last weekend that we’d have another meeting on this year’s last day of school, she was just as excited.
The last two years have been challenging at our house. The very joyous occasion of having a baby has meant my older daughter has felt ignored and bored and, often, less than joyous. She’s also head over heels in love with her baby sister and a terrific helper most the time, but still. Having a mom who was exhausted for nearly two straight years (thank you, pregnancy insomnia and newborn sleep schedules) is rough on a girl!
My husband and I have done our best to spend one-on-one time with our seven-year-old and make sure she understands how precious she is to our family, no matter how much changes about the makeup of that family. But sometimes the urgent trumped the important, and the baby’s needs had to come first.
Okay, not sometimes. A lot of times.
Even though we told her over and over that we loved her just as much as before, she simply didn’t feel important. And the result is that our strong-willed but usually well-behaved first grader developed some pretty frustrating behaviors. Nothing too terrible, but plenty that drove me up the wall and led to yelling and timeouts and talks about consequences and respect and obedience. When I let things slide because I was tired or busy with the baby (or, more likely, BOTH), they just got worse. And more deeply ingrained.
For the past few months we’ve been working on all that. Now that my youngest is [finally!] sleeping through the night, I’m feeling more like myself and capable of things a mom needs–patience, follow-through, compassion and the ability to remember more than when I last changed a diaper. And now that things are looking brighter at our house in so many ways, I’m actually looking forward to summer.
I actually started making plans for the summer a couple months ago. At this point I’ve signed up for camps and made a list of potential play dates, and I’ve highlighted all the best library programs in the summer catalog. So do I really need my daughter’s input on how we spend the next three months?
Even though I have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do, I ask my daughter for ideas because I want her to feel like this is OUR summer together. I want her to be invested in our plans so she’s less likely to complain about them later on. (That’s the dream, at least…) And sometimes, she has good ideas for things to do!
After her last day of first grade, we’ll probably head straight to Chick-Fil-A again. We’ll both be armed with notebooks and colorful pens and lists of science experiments, new recipes, children’s museums and swimming pool schedules. And over our waffle fries and lemonade, we’ll have a meeting.
Now, really, it’s more of a lunch with notebooks–but calling it a “meeting” is important. Because calling our after-school lunch a meeting tells my daughter that she’s important and that what we’re doing is important. And if there’s one thing that’s a must on our list of summer plans, it’s making sure my family knows they are important.
How do you make plans for the summer? Will you have a family meeting to make plans?