Last Fall my friend Mariel asked me to write a “guest post” on her popular blog “Or So She Says.” I wrote about “nights” with my children, so some of this post is taken from that. After I wrote that post, I started thinking about changing my personal family blog to a blog that dealt with something I deal with every day, being an adoptive parent…. So began my blog “The Adoptive Mother.”
Today is my 50th post with regards to “Our Story.” This will be my last post for that segment and I will start writing about more current issues with regards to open adoption.
When Ruth was pregnant with Ava my boys saw her quite frequently. They accompanied Ruth and I when we went to her doctor appointments, they visited her apartment, made cards and notes for her and saw her on a regular basis. After Ava was born and Ruth decided to parent her we didn't see her for a while. Naturally the boys had a lot of questions about what would happen to their sister and to Ruth. Each night when I would tuck my boys in they would ask me questions about anything and everything. My oldest son Bryan was 7-years-old at the time and he had the most questions. I didn’t know how to answer some of the questions in front of all of the boys because of the differences in age and knowledge about the situation, so a friend of mine suggested that I set aside some time each night with them individually. Thus began a family tradition we call “nights.”
The basic premise of having “nights” means that each child is assigned a night, (Aubrey has Sunday, Ava Monday, Preston Tuesday, Cole Wednesday and Bryan Thursday). After we say family prayers and everyone gets tucked into bed, I spend an extra 15-45 minutes with my child on his/her “night.” At first most of our talks were about Ruth, Bryan wanted to know what was going to happen with Ava, he asked a lot of questions about his first family and what they were doing and how they were doing. Most of this time was spent comforting him and calming his anxiety and fears about separation and adoption in general, but basically just answering the questions he had about what was going to happen in the future, even if that meant saying "I don't know" because honestly I had no idea what was going to happen.
The main idea is just to take time ALONE with each child to talk, listen or both. With my youngest (age 3) we usually just read a few books and it only takes 10-15 minutes, but with my older children, they have a LOT to talk about! I thought maybe as my children got older they wouldn’t be as interested as when they were young, but I was wrong! They already start planning on what we are going to do on their “night” before they even leave for school or a few days before. I have found out things about my children that I never thought they would share…
Here are some ideas of what we do with our time together:
Sit together on the couch and just talk (we do this 90% of the time)
Read together, we usually take turns reading (if your child is old enough to read)
We take funny pictures of each other pulling faces
Sometimes we go to the store if I have errands to run (and get a small treat)
Go to the gas station and get a hot chocolate or drink (I have had some of my best talks with my teenage son while we drive)
Look up fun things on the internet, such as new books or toys they are interested in
Help with homework (if it didn’t get finished earlier)
Play a board game such as chess/checkers
Play a card game
In the summer we like to go outside and lie on the lawn and look at the stars and talk
Create a yummy snack to share (my kids love to cook!)
Around Christmas they help me shop and wrap presents for their siblings
Snuggle on the couch and read the comics
Being committed to doing this night after night and week after week is not easy (but it is definitely worth it!) Sometimes I have no idea what to say, sometimes I just want to get in bed, or go to bed at the same time as my spouse… but I have also designated Friday and Saturday nights as nights with my hubby (so he doesn’t miss out either on alone time either!)
A few weeks ago I was really sick on Thursday (Bryan’s night) so I was in bed hours before everyone else. The next day he mentioned that we missed his night and asked if we could have it the next day. I am so grateful for the time I am able to spend with my children. We don’t always talk about something profound, sometimes we talk about nothing at all, but I want my children to know I am there for them no matter what, especially as they start questioning who they are and ask more profound and probing questions about their past.
When my kids grow up and leave the house… I plan on making their “night” of the week the day when I call them to catch up…and hopefully they will still want to talk!