Like a lot of people, the “one word” movement for setting New Year’s resolutions has been one that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly. I love the idea of approaching the new year with a theme that can be summed up in a single word, and I really feel like I’ve grown through the words I’ve chosen in the past.
I’ve always taken an intuitive approach when choosing a word of the year, waiting for the word to find me and resonate in my spirit rather than trying to come up with one on my own. (That sounds a lot more woo-wooey than I intended it!)
This year, though, I just haven’t felt that any word really encapsulates my hopes for 2016. Instead of a single word, the idea that keeps coming to me is “capturing the hearts of my girls,” and so that’s what I’m going with!
In some ways, that’s good. With the help of spreadsheets and checklists, schedules and routines, I manage to juggle a job and my own business, homeschooling and homemaking.
But as a type-A, introverted, task-oriented mom, I haven’t always done a great job of investing in my relationships with my girls as individuals (focusing instead on to-do lists, meeting their physical needs, and often just surviving another day).
With our oldest daughter firmly in the “tween” stage and another close behind, I’m feeling the weight of this, though, and the importance of a relationship with each of them that leaves an open door for hard conversations, for piling their junk on me, and for dealing with the emotions and struggles of growing up.
We’ve also recently acknowledged that our oldest probably has ADHD (more on this journey in a later post), and while we’re still waiting on a formal diagnosis, that has opened my eyes to her unique emotional needs and how ADHD can potentially make adolescence even harder for her. (I highly recommend Understanding Girls with ADHD for learning more about how ADHD affects girls differently than boys, not just in the symptoms they experience but in their emotional reactions and the potential behavior patterns these can lead to.)
When I wrote about the “more” of a big family last year, I talked about how I have to work hard to deal with arguing and discipline on an individual basis because it’s too easy to see all four girls as an amalgamation of each other. And that often makes me less patient with them as a whole, with the last person to argue/disobey/interrupt bearing the brunt of my impatience.
And so my goal is to really capture their hearts this year. To read books and watch movies together. To make time for walks and coffee dates and one-on-one conversation. To get to know them better as individuals. To make sure the door is open for them to share their thoughts and feelings and struggles with me.
The hard part is that this is easy for me with my babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Two year olds are my jam, and I love scooping Jackson up to help me in the kitchen or listening to him chatter away while I fold laundry. Eight year olds, on the other hand, are not quite so easy for me, and as delightful as I find the girls’ humor and sarcasm and deep thinking, my relationships with them take work. I wasn’t necessarily prepared for that work; I thought I would always feel about them the way I did when they were newborns and toddlers and preschoolers.
(I wonder if this growing up process is easier for the moms who struggle in the early years because they learn early that those relationships take work?!)
Investing in these relationships means saying yes when our oldest asks to help me bathe the baby even though I was looking forward to the quiet. It means hugging the 8-year-old when she bursts into tears because she broke her Kindle screen and is afraid I’ll be mad. It means holding my tongue when I really want to yell at everyone to please just BE QUIET for five minutes (and, man, do I need to work on that one). It means really listening to our 11yo’s pleas for violin lessons or adding purple highlights to my hair to match hers. It means looking for those opportunities for conversation rather than looking for opportunities for quiet.
At some point, it’s also going to include getting back to our morning time routine (I’m trying to give myself grace because it’s been hard to make space for that with our current routine and schedule, but I know it will help!), and I’d love to get back to planned one-on-one dates with them as well.
There are no actionable steps to take, no measurable milestones, no defined timelines for this goal…simply my heart’s desire and a commitment to evaluate how I’m doing, pay attention to the small moments, and keep on trying.