“We don’t get out much,” I confessed, winking at the cashier as the girls enthusiastically pulled at both my upper limbs.
We were ordering donuts and they were overwhelmed with choices, paralyzed with excitement, and couldn’t decide. A routine run for many families, perhaps, but a big deal for the three of us and, we were having a blast.
I took my two eldest, girls ages 9 and 7, to grab some donuts and catch a movie.
It was Girls Night Out.
“Mommy, Mommy,” they both panted, while planting gentle kisses on my cheeks as we snuggled into a faux leather loveseat at the donut joint, “we should do this ALL the time. Watch me do this!” (Cartwheel attempted.) “Mommy, at what age did you start getting boobies? Can you play this fast hand-slapping game with me? My friend taught it to me today at school. There’s this boy, at school, and he, ahhh,…he likes me…” They rambled manically on and on, trying to squeeze it all in, breathless and unable to even complete a sentence.
They were radiant and so was I. We could’ve been at the carwash, the bank, the grocery store, it didn’t matter. It was the first time, in a very long time, that we had each other, all to ourselves.
On weekends, we spend QT as a family unit- all seven of us. After school, it’s always the five kids and me. They are all vying for my attention and the reality is that I am a slave to those that require the most supervision. Each day, I try anew to manage the chaos and juggle all of their conflicting needs. Like a pinball bouncing haphazardly between them all, I find myself unable to focus on anything. Because the little ones, ages 6, 4, and 2, are so active and mischievous, i.e. time-consuming, the eldest girls are never able to get my undivided attention —or much of it at all. If I could mutate into several full-functioning mommy-selves, I could simultaneously help with homework and chase the free spirits as they charge out the door to embark on the day’s outdoor adventure. But I cannot. I am only one person. Therefore, the girls must wait. And wait. And wait. And, by the time, the tots are down, hubby also wants to spend some time together, and rightfully so.
The toddlers have me all to themselves all day while the others are in school and, we engage in plenty of activities together. The problem is that they still want me, all to themselves, even when the bigger ones arrive home. There’s a lot of sibling rivalry and jealously brewing and that’s normal. Call it “nature of the beast.” Anyone who comes from a large family knows that and, ironically these very interactions will help deepen the emotional connections between all of them, even as they bicker and compete. But sometimes, we need a little quiet and time away from the mayhem.
Divide and Conquer
Changing the family dynamic on occasion and extracting the two biggest girls from the herd to enjoy a Girls Night Out, is critical. It’s time to reconnect. I need time to really hear them, without toddlers interrupting. And, truthfully, I don’t want to miss out on any valuable bonding-time with my quickly-maturing inquisitive gals. They need me, just as I do them, and we need to sneak away together to capture some special moments, whenever we can. As their mommy, I need to conquer their hearts by setting aside designated time to calmly “be present.”
Despite the protests emanating from the rest of the posse, I will fight hard to defend the value of Girls Night Out. Deep in my heart, I know that the time I invest now in strengthening our relationships, will have huge returns for many years to come.