Sorry I've been so absent! Summer has brought with it a whole new set of challenges. My eldest is still in classes - her cosmetology school does not take a summer break - and I'm teaching some private voice and piano students which means more running around for mom. Add to that the fact that all three of my girls are working part time jobs this summer and we have only one vehicle to make it all happen, to call the situation a little crazy might be an understatement!
But I have been reminded of a very important thing in the last few days. We are preparing to head to Michigan for our family vacation (as I type this, it is just past midnight on the 24th - we leave at about 3:30 this afternoon!) where we will see both of my sisters and their families as well as my parents. Sadly, the oldest cannot come with us. Technically, she could, but it would add a month on to her schooling since she would have to retake the four week course she is currently in if she misses a week. She's more than a little sad that she can't go and my other three kids have been counting down the days for awhile.
Why does any of that matter? My kids - all of them teenagers - are looking forward to spending time with aunts, uncles, cousins (all of whom are younger) and grandparents. That's not typical for this day and age. When I ask them why they enjoy these get-togethers so much, most of the answers come out in the form of inside jokes. Over the years, we've played lots of games together, laughed alot, cried some, and even argued ocasionally. But somewhere in all of that my kids learned that laughing together helps build a bond. Somewhere in the ups and downs, the cross country moves that make trips like this rare treasures, the adults in my family have communicated to my kids that they matter.
It might be the baking weekend get-togethers around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday's. This is our very own "rite of passage" for the women of our family. You are not included until the holiday season of your 8th grade year which then makes you a "woman" as far as the family is concerned and earns you the right to be involved in all of the "women only" activities that we are able to put together. It might be the ease of internet communication that has allowed my kids to stay in touch with the older generation via facebook and e-mail. But I'm pretty convinced the answer is simpler than all of that.
My sisters and my parents have given my kids the one thing that matters most - time. They've talked with them, played games with them, read to them, taken walks with them . . . they've spent time getting to know them as individuals. I think kids need to know that they matter to at least one other person besides their parents. And my family has provided that for my kids in spades!
My kids keep confirming this belief in the importance of time with their frequent requests to play a game or watch a movie as a family. To the truly competitive, our game playing can be a little frustrating since our goal is ALWAYS to have fun which usually means the game slows down a bit to allow for the laughter. What inspires the laughter? Any number of things but I'm sure none of them would make any sense to anyone outside of the family. Just say Juan Valdez or the Kentucky Derby around my kids or my extended family and there will be giggles and maybe even a red face or two depending on who's in the room. You wouldn't get it but that's okay. Hopefully your family has those too - things that leave you all in stitches and leave outsiders clueless.
Kids ask for a lot of stuff - ipods, game systems, the latest internet capable cell phone - and the media does a fantastic job convincing them they need all of it. But when my kids talk about the memories they cherish, I don't really ever hear them refering to the time they got the newest/latest/greatest gadget, gizmo, or toy. The favorite memories or best laughs come from the people who have taken the time to show my kids that they matter; that there are those besides mom and dad who genuinely enjoy their company.
So if I'm absent for the next several days, please forgive me. I have three nephews and a niece ranging in age from 3 to 8 and I plan on spending the next week and a half letting them know that "Aunt Moj" is absolutely crazy about them! It's been way to long since I've hung out with them and I need me a fix! I'm off to go read books, tickle some little ones till they can't breath, and cuddle with those that will sit still long enough to humor and old lady. Once the munchkins are in bed, the grown-ups get some play time. Just hope we don't wake the little ones up with all the laughing!