“We don’t get out much,” I confessed, winking at the cashier as the girls enthusiastically pulled at both my upper limbs.
We were ordering donuts and they were overwhelmed with choices, paralyzed with excitement, and couldn’t decide. A routine run for many families, perhaps, but a big deal for the three of us. We were having a blast.
I took my two eldest, girls ages 9 and 7, to grab some donuts and catch a movie while our three younger kids and my husband stayed home.
It was Girls Night Out.
“Mommy, Mommy,” they both panted, while planting gentle kisses on my cheeks. We snuggled into a faux leather loveseat at the donut joint and the 9-year-old cheered, “We should do this ALL the time, Mommy.”
“Watch me do this!” (Cartwheel attempted by 7-year-old.)
“Mommy, at what age did you start getting boobies?”
“Can you play this fast hand-slapping game with me? My friend taught it to me today at school.”
“There’s this boy at school, and he, uhhh, he likes me…” They rambled on and on, manic and trying to squeeze it all in. Breathless, they were unable to complete a sentence.
They were radiant and so was I. We could’ve been at the carwash, the bank, the grocery store; it didn’t matter. It was the first time in a very long time, that we had each other all to ourselves.
On weekends, we spend QT as a family unit — all seven of us. After school, it’s always the five kids and me. They are all vying for my attention and the reality is I am a slave to those that require the most supervision. Each day, I try anew to manage the chaos and juggle all their conflicting needs. Like a pinball bouncing haphazardly between them all, I find myself unable to focus on anything. Because the little ones, ages 6, 4, and 2, are so active and mischievous, i.e. time-consuming, the eldest girls are never able to get my undivided attention — or much of it at all. If I could mutate into several full-functioning mommy-selves, I could simultaneously help with homework and chase the free spirits as they charge out the door embarking upon the day’s outdoor adventure. But I cannot. I am only one person. Therefore, the girls must wait. And wait. And wait. And by the time the tots are down, hubby also wants to spend some time together, and rightfully so.
The toddlers have me all to themselves while the others are in school and we engage in plenty of activities together. The problem is that they still want me all to themselves, even when the bigger ones arrive home. There’s a lot of sibling rivalry and jealously brewing and that’s normal. Call it the “nature of the beast.” Anyone who comes from a large family knows that. And ironically, these very interactions will help deepen the emotional connections between all of them — even as they bicker and compete. But sometimes we all need a little quiet and time away from the mayhem.
Divide and Conquer
Changing the family dynamic on occasion and extracting the two biggest girls from the herd to enjoy a Girls Night Out is critical. It’s time to reconnect. I need time to really hear them without toddlers interrupting. And truthfully, I don’t want to miss out on any valuable bonding time with my quickly maturing inquisitive gals. They need me, just as I do them. And we need to sneak away together to capture some special moments whenever we can. As their mommy, I need to conquer their hearts by setting aside designated time to calmly “be present.”
Despite the protests emanating from the rest of the posse, I will fight hard in defense of Girls Night Out. Deep in my heart, I know that the time I invest now in strengthening our relationships will have huge returns for many years to come.