Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building Friendships

Okay, so I'm learning (while stumbling quite a bit) how to allow my children to develop their own relationships with one another.  I have always had a desire--a strong desire--for my children to be friends.  However, I understand that as much as I long for this, I cannot control it.  I can steer them here and there but I cannot control the outcome.  They are individuals with unique characteristics, views, and temperaments; they will develop relationships according to what works for them throughout life.  Having said that, I really want them to like each other, enjoy each other's company, and to learn to be there for one another.  What I am learning is that in order for these friendships to be built, I have to back off a bit. 

There is a delicate balance, I believe, in allowing them to form their own type of friendship with one another, and helping them to resolve conflicts with one another.  I have never wanted to be a hands-off or even permissive parent that leaves her children to fend for themselves, so to speak.  I fear, in wanting to help them learn to work together appropriately and to resolve conflicts, that I have probably interfered now and then in opportunities for these relationships to form naturally.  It is a delicate balance!  I'm learning that it is good and healthy on occasion to allow them the opportunity to work out a conflict on their own.  Of course, if I hear ear-piercing shreaks or furniture being overturned, I should intervene.  However, when I have allowed for this, usually they work it out (even though from time to time there are raised voices or childish names being called).  Generally, when they see that I am not running in the room to settle the dispute, they come to some sort of a compromise or way of making peace.  Surprisingly, I think that even they prefer peace!

So, it is my goal to give myself the permission to back off a bit more often.  And, I am purposing to afford my children more opportunities to learn to work and play together.  Sometimes, when I least expect it I see evidence of their love for one another and their enjoyment in each other's company.  Just this afternoon, Jaden and I had finished his home school work and he was putting together a Lego set.  Luke was busy with a toy.  I had just finished some yoga stretches with Ella (who always tries the stretches with me....and does fairly well for a 3 yr. old).  Tessa was laughing at us and lying down by us from time to time.  After this, I put gates at the stairs (so Tessa wouldn't attempt them) and ran upstairs for a super-quick mommy shower.  (Yes, I am one of those awful moms who lets her children survive without her for 10 min. while she showers....with the bathroom door open so she can hear almost everything!  And, yes, I have had to run downstairs in a towel with soap in my hair before!)  Anyhow, as usual, when I turn off the water I listen carefully or call down to see how things are going.  As I listened I heard soft talking and the sounds of pleasure...really!  Not fighting or bickering!  I quickly dressed and ran downstairs.  All 4 were gathered in a close huddle around my daughter's tea set.  They were arranging plates, napkins, and forks and placing them in the basket.  They told me they were going on a picnic.  Tessa, almost 19 mos. old, had no idea what she was doing but she was right there with her brothers and sister.  I told them their rest-time would be soon, but they quickly asked for more time to do their picnic.  Of course, this was not a difficult request to fulfill!  I delighted in watching them march around the house hiking to their picnic spot.  It was pure mother's joy...completely precious!

So, as much as my children argue, bicker, and disagree, they are developing friendships with each other.  It does my heart well!  I see that certain ones play more often--or do particular activities--with another.  I see that dynamics change depending on the day and who is around or not around.  Just as I like certain things about each of my kids, I think they have certain characteristics that they like about each other too!  My baby, for instance, plays with her sister most often.  But, she trusts Jaden alone to pick her up, get her out of bed, or buckle her in her booster seat.  However, her brother Luke is the one she goes to most often to hug or give a spontaneous kiss--she adores him.  There is nothing wrong with this.  It's good and healthy.  I'm so looking forward to watching these friendships grow and develop over the years.  As often as I choke up at the realization of how fast these early years are moving, I honestly get such a sense of excitement thinking about their teenage and young adult years.  I can almost see and hear them sitting around a table playing games, laughing, and reminiscing.  It does my heart well!  Personally, this evidence and development of sibling love is as much a reward of parenting for me as the reward of my own relationship growth with my children.  What a true joy to see them learning and desiring to love one another!

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