Would you call your siblings your best friends? If so, you have a great gift. If not, have you ever wondered how to create that with your own kids?
I'm the mom of four kids ages 23, 20, 18, and . . . 2. The two-year-old thinks everyone is her best friend, but there were many years I was certain my older kids would never be friends, let alone best friends. My kids were boy, girl, boy. The youngest boy was good at playing whatever the older ones wanted, until about age eight when he got a mind of his own. The oldest boy was good at using the younger ones for target practice . . . in the name of fun. And the girl in the middle was very dramatic. If she felt anything was unfair, I'd hear about it. Loudly.
Raising our kids, John and I told them they had to like each other. They didn't have an option. “When we're gone you'll still have each other, so you need to be best friends for life.”
They didn't seem too convinced this would happen. And truthfully, I wasn't either. Yet things did change. They grew older, and during high school they had the same group of friends who hung out. Now as young adults, the two who live at home still hang out. And even though my boys now live 2,000 miles away, they talk every day.
How and why did the change happen?
We homeschooled. Now originally when I started homeschooling I was thinking about 1) a godly education, and 2) me and John being the number-one influence in our kids' life. But with homeschooling there was a lot of time for the kids to interact. This included both fighting and spending quality time together. Instead of going to different grades and developing their own peer groups, they spent most of their time together. Yes, they still had friends to hang out with, but most of the day the closest playmate was in the next chair over. This also built a great foundation of forever memories. They remember the same science lessons, craft projects, and field trips. They made lunch together. They watched the same movies and listened to the same music. Their lives were built on togetherness.
We limited individual activities. After starting out as a they-have-to-do-everything mom with each kid going his and her own way, I realized that life-together was more important than activities. We limited them to one activity per child, per year, and my two oldest picked the same activity: basketball.
We cheered each other on. Since my basketball players were in a homeschool/private school league, we also traveled for games. This meant every other Friday piling into our SUV and heading off across Montana as a family. We'd drive four-to-five hours for a game, watch the games together, and stay the night. This made for a lot of car time, where we'd talk, listen to comedy, and just hang out. And whenever there was any type of event (game, performance, exhibit) every family member showed up to cheer.
We taught our kids the greatest commandment(s). Loving God and loving others was the “core” of our curriculum. My kids did well at school, but biblical teaching was even more important. Looking back, my kids' relationship with one another improved when they dedicated their lives to God. Believe it or not, the Holy Spirit makes an even better “sibling advocate” than Mom.
I've been thinking a lot about this because over the holidays we had all the kids at home (and my daughter-in-law and grandson, too!). This sounds typical, until you add in the fact we were also without power for five days and most of the family members got the stomach flu. Yet in the middle of huddling under blankets, eating pantry food, and being sick, my oldest son piped up, “I need everyone's attention. Even though this is miserable right now, there's no place I'd rather be than with my family.” Everyone agreed. Even in the most miserable conditions, we had each other, and we've learned that's the most important thing of all. Wouldn't you agree?
Tricia Goyer, TriciaGoyer.com
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