Moving Our Family Closer

Yesterday these couches held the tired bodies of our family after a 33-mile Memorial Day bike ride for NH’s Boy Scout bicycling merit badge. Today no one is sprawled out on the cushions, bouncing over the arms or playing Bananagrams on the ottoman, but they will be—when school lets out in three days.

We’ve rearranged the furniture to accommodate activities like these. When I was a mother of young children I kept the couches on the perimeter of the living space, leaving an open area in front for the kids to play on the floor. When we moved to our new home five years ago, I kept the open space with the couches at a right angle to each other but added an ottoman. This month we pulled the couches into a close-knit seating arrangement for a party and liked the change.

The simple rearrangement of the furniture moved us closer together. We’ve spent more time in this room. We’ve played more games. We’ve talked more. We’ve snuggled more. We’ve listened more. We’ve just sat down and relaxed more.

That’s what I’m hoping for this summer, for the next three months. I’ve never anticipated a summer more than this one, not because our calendar holds major outings, vacations, classes, milestones or activities. My desire isn’t to keep my kids busy so much as watch how they use their initiative.  And I’m confidant they will move forward based on teaching from summers past.

When we sensed the need to rearrange the furniture, our whole family responded by pulling closer. In the past few summers I’ve sensed the need to organize and dictate less how my teens and tween spend their time.

At first, I thought this was parenting’s natural way of moving them slowly away from my nest. Now, I’ve seen that I spend less time refereeing and lecturing and more time listening, affirming, encouraging, and guiding.

Giving my kids the freedom to be responsible doesn’t take them away from me, it pulls them closer to me. We have the same amount of time, just rearranged into a cozier environment.

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