Before we had kids, we didn’t have “date nights”. We didn’t need them, meaning we didn’t need to share a Google calendar item and make advanced plans.
At nine o’clock at night, we could hop up off the sofa and go to the gym together. Or we’d go out for dinner and then just hang out at Barnes & Noble drinking coffee and reading afterward. On Saturday mornings, we could just lay in bed and chat.
And besides, scheduling times to go out and have fun together didn’t seem very romantic. What a cold, mechanical relationship you must have if you have to “carve out time” to be together.
The Moving Pieces Increased
OK, after you finish wiping away the tears of laughter, I’ll tell you what you probably already know. Kids changed things. Like, a lot.
And then there was homeschooling. And his new job. And church responsibilities. And more kids.
Our regular alone time together is falling asleep watching something on Netflix late at night after the kids are (quasi) asleep. If we want to do anything even slightly fancier, it requires advanced planning.
Do we have to plan for date nights because we no longer care much for each other and so it’s this clinical task, this dull duty we have to check off our monthly agenda? Not at all.
In fact, we plan for it because it’s one of the highlights of our month and something we don’t want to get crowded out of our schedule.
Relationships Versus Checklists
So, then, why is it that in some circles relationships and checklists are thought of as arch enemies, diametrically opposed to each other? As with so many other good things in this life, the problem isn’t the checklist or the schedule. It’s user error.
Used skillfully, a schedule, a plan, a checklist can be a wonderful tool to enable all the moving pieces of family life to play nicely with each other. But sometimes we flip things upside down.
Instead of using a checklist to serve the family, the family becomes a slave to their schedule. Or, the family becomes a slave to mom’s schedule.
As moms, we fret that we won’t do all. the. things. that are “good” for our kids. And so we load the schedule to the gills. On paper, it fits. In practice, it’s suffocating and stifling.
People rebel. Relationships suffer. And we blame the nasty, evil checklist.
How To Plan For People
Sometimes you just need to checklist-detox. It’s OK. Step back. Remember what it used to feel like before you enslaved your family to the “perfect family checklist”.
But then remind yourself of one thing. The days are going to be filled. Things are going to be done. The question is whether you are going to take the time to be intentional about that filling and doing.
Besides date night, here are some relationship-strengthening things you just might want to add to your checklist.
- One-on-one time with each kid. If you can, set up a regular rotation. Or, if that doesn’t work, pick out individual dates on the calendar. We’ve done father-daughter dates and mother-son dates. We’ve done dinner out with Mama when you finish your math book. And we’ve rotated who we take on errands.
- Free play time and alone time. I’ve talked before about the importance of scheduling enough white space into your schedule to foster stronger sibling relationships. Alone/quiet/downtime also gives people a chance to recharge in order to have more grace and patience to extend to each other.
- Continuing education. Relationships can get into ruts. We tend to react the same way over and over. Sometimes the best thing we can do for the relationships in our homes is to step back and schedule some time to learn more about how to encourage and nurture the relationships in our homes.
This summer, you’ve probably set aside time for homeschool planning. And you should. Maybe you’re planning to pre-read some of the kids’ books for next year. Maybe you’ve got your own curriculum of self-study in educational philosophy piled up on your bedside table.
How about adding in a dynamic parent education course in sibling relationships? Right in the middle of the summer – when the kids have had lots of free time and plenty of opportunities to amuse themselves by picking fights – is a great time to focus intentionally on sibling conflict resolution.
We’ll be hosting the Sibling Opposition Solution (S.O.S.) Course over on Homeschooling without Training Wheels and I’d love to have you join us. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss, ask questions, and make a great sibling plan for the coming school year and beyond.
Homeschooling without Training Wheels. (But don’t wait, because registration closes July 7th.)
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