When my kids were really little, all toddlers and younger, I thought my life would never exist outside the realm of spit-up, ketchup, and middle of the night wake-ups. I relished the idea of taking a five-minute undisturbed shower and gallivanting down the aisles of Target by myself. Then I blinked, and now my kids don’t leak, they eat condiments like dijon mustard, and they rarely wake at night. It’s a different world.
Along with these changes, other facets of my mommying have changed, too. I no longer snuggle into bed with my near 12-year-old. He’d look at me like I had lost my mind. I DO NOT administer baths any longer. Period. I challenge them to answer their own questions about daily activities. “Mom, can I watch PG-13 movie XYZ?” asks 9-year-old son. “What do you think? What does the online movie review say? Does that line up with what we believe?” I challenge. I want them to start thinking for themselves.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found raising older kids has been how to show them the same amount of love and attention but in different forms. Reading a book on the couch while snuggling blankies and stuffies is no longer “enough.” Peek-a-boo obviously doesn’t hold their attention and playing “so big” just might earn me an eye-roll of epic proportions. So… what should a mama do?
Well, I’ve found a few secret passages into the hearts of my older boys. Maybe some of these tricks will help you nuzzle your way into the hearts of your older kiddos as well.
Food – As humans we all have fond memory associations with different types of food. For some, a nice bowl of popcorn might remind them of a special night at the movies. For others, a grilled hot dog is reminiscent of long summer days at the ballpark. Think of different foods your son/daughter deems memorable and make a special effort to make it for him/her. It may open up a window of conversation into his/her heart.
Humor – Adults aren’t funny… most of the time. Older kids love a good laugh. See the disconnect? Make an attempt at humor at their level. No, I don’t mean you have to include fart and belching jokes into your repertoire, but try to relate to their world. My oldest son and I have our own special “dork” alter-egos we use when we joke with each other. I rip on him about his “super awesome pig farm on Minecraft,” and he ribs me about my coupon texts from Younkers. “Hey mom, better hurry to that really important sale on towels this week!”
Physical Activity – Get up and do something. As my kids have gotten older I have found it WAY TOO EASY to let them plug in and self entertain. Not healthy. Not wise. Not a good use of the fleeting years we have with them. I have found out more about my oldest son while jumping on a trampoline with him than I have anywhere else. My youngest, who is still only 7, has divulged his heart’s dreams to me while being pushed on a swing. It doesn’t have to be organized or even pretty. Just go!
Adult Experiences – Adults meet for coffee, we shop for appliances, we plan vacations, we trade in vehicles, we have garage sales, we fix bikes, etc. The list is endless. Start including your older kids as you do some of these things. I recently took my oldest to Caribou Coffee before heading out to run some other errands. I asked him what he wanted and he looked at me with a “Caribou in the headlights” look. “I don’t even know what to get,” he replied. I gave him a lesson on the difference between a latte, cappuccino, and americano. (I’m hopeful he’ll impress his first date with aforementioned knowledge.) He felt special and got a sneak peak into the adult world.
Listening Ears and Eyes – Put down your device and bring up your gaze. Look into your child’s eyes as he/she is talking to you about the most mind-numbing topic of conversation you could ever imagine. Listen intently to his description of the latest Minecraft mod. Ask him questions about why he’s already determined the order of slides he’ll ride when the pool opens… FOUR MONTHS FROM NOW. Listening to the mundane shows your kids you’ll listen to anything, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll risk sharing something special with you when they’re ready.
Moms, our job is an ever-changing roller coaster ride of patience, persistence, and a little luck. Hang in there during these older years. I’ve heard your kids can often become some of your best friends when they’re adults. Fingers crossed. 😉