I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy. That life would be easier and might actually slow down—oh, silly rabbit.
Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are like ships passing in the night. It’s too easy to lose sight of one another and just drift along.
My youngest and I are still joined at the hip. My middle schooler is slowly weaning herself from my clutches.
But high school? It’s a whole new world, one that often doesn’t include mom. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, I’m lucky if I get a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred. But during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry about the drama, do your homework, and see you tomorrow.
In some ways it feels like high school is the beginning of the end. You send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, to keep their pants on, and to be kind to others.
This is how I usually see my oldest: “Bye, Mom!”
The problem is there are tasks that must get done. Tasks such as work and scholarship applications, scouting merit badges, emails, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do these tasks without your teen. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? I’ve tried all of these tactics and let’s just say that none were helping our relationship. This situation is exhausting and annoying to all parties involved.
Side note: The time to remind kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle. As in, “Don’t forget to…” “Yep, Mom, I got it.” But, hmm…do they?
But recently I heard of an idea on the Happier Podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.
Set a weekly one-hour appointment with your teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.
At first, my children met this idea with skepticism. My daughter: “Uh, honestly Mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right. We were having a hard time connecting.
She penciled me in, and during our hour together that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and sent those scholarship applications. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was fun. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: bralette). WIN.
Experimenting with my son was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges, and he does not want to do them. (Truth be told, I don’t either.)
“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful voice. I knew he wasn’t looking forward to it; however, I also know the way to the boy’s heart—MEAT.
It’s the strategy of pairing. If boy associates meat and other yummy food with positive attention from Mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Success. We only spent half an hour, and the job was done.
On my calendar I now have a weekly reminder: Schedule an hour with #1 and #2.
The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (Shhh…perhaps they might secretly enjoy spending time with me.)
To keep a connection with your teenager, my advice is to schedule a weekly meeting. Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the next appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done. Try really hard not to nag about scheduled matters during the week. Save it for your date.
Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you have to do. It could be a walk together or cleaning out a closet, but as time is teaching me, these final moments with our kids under the same roof are precious and soon gone.
My son and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said goodbye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” “Oh good,” I said, happily surprised. He added, “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”
Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.
QUESTION: Are your kids at the age and stage where the best way to spend time with them is a weekly appointment?
CHALLENGE: Think about what incentive or activity would work best for your teenager to make this weekly appointment something to look forward to.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Nollie Haws.
Family images provided by the author. Feature image from Pixabay; graphic by Anna Jenkins.