As you may know, I have another job as a secondary school teacher. This job, the teaching, often robs me of time with my family. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, and because I teach geography, evenings usually find me combing my favourite news sites looking for interesting geography-related news stories that I can use to engage my students and help them learn about the rest of the world.
I often resent dinner, not because I don’t like the time with my family around the table, but because clean up time means I have less time to work (as I always try to protect the hour it takes to get my children to bed). I usually start dreading dinner around 2 pm every day.
This is one of the reasons I love my summers, and guard my family time carefully. I am free from the time constraints that stress me out during the school year. My husband commented after the first week of summer break “gee Michelle, I’d forgotten you have teeth!”
This summer, I wanted to have a project that would allow me to connect with my children, as well as help me deal with my feelings around dinners and dinnertime. So my family and I spent a weekend in June building garden beds and attaching fencing to keep the critters out (the four-legged kind that we share our land with, although it works equally well for inquisitive, heavy-footed children!).
All the children helped, willingly, which was, to be honest, a bit of a shocker. My oldest, Finn, really loves playing video games, and I thought I might have to wage my own Star Wars battle to separate him from the Xbox. The staple gun (to attach the chicken wire) fixed that problem. It’s all about the tools! The girls, Josephine and Laine, worked (with clearly defined jobs and only a modicum of bickering) to wheelbarrow the soil and spread it in the beds.
Jo helped me plant – cauliflower, peas, beans, radishes, beets, lettuce, basil, peppers, cucumbers, and four seeds of corn. We were a bit tight on space. It was a grand experiment to see what could grow, and what would survive the deer.
Laine was most interested in checking in as the weeks passed. Daily we would head out to the garden to see what was up, and by July, ready to eat. She was highly motivated by the peas – her favourite.
As the weeks passed, the children found connections to the garden. We discovered a bird family one day while we were admiring Josephine’s watermelon that was growing near the base of the tree. Everybody tried every vegetable that came to the table, and my picky eater (Laine) even declared the lettuce “AMAZING”! They shared a connection to each other because of the work they put in together, and to the land and the food we ate that grew there. They connected with me, too, in ways that I could have never predicted. They staked out the gardens to try to help me figure out what small rodent was getting in (chipmunks – who knew they could make their bodies small enough to fit through the chicken wire?), and commiserated with me when this crazy drought finally got the better of our lettuce, and also when the corn got tall enough that the deer just annihilated it from above. Seriously, nothing left.
So what does this have to do with sleep? Well, nothing really, except everything too.
This connection we built when I put down my computer and we all picked up the gardening tools carried beyond dinners into the rest of our lives.
I found myself spending better time with them at bedtime. I was the one requested for the last kiss and tuck in before lights out. I felt very fortunate.
In reality, it was a summer of growth. For the gardens, of course, but more importantly for me.
Spending time with my children doing something we were all interested in built our family connection. I will endeavour to remember that when September and the new school year roll around.
Every child and family have unique ways to connect. Let's talk and explore what connection time would mean to your child's bedtime. Schedule a discovery call!