This past weekend Geoff and I decided to enjoy time with the kids a little differently than usual. Geoff took both boys to my parents' cottage for the weekend, and Lizzie and I stayed at home together in the city. It was both a boys' weekend and a girls' weekend.
Geoff took the boys kayaking and on a trail ride with their bikes; they spent hours around a campfire together, roasting wieners and marshmallows and throwing pine needles and branches onto the fire; they made popcorn and watched movies on our small, portable DVD player; and they stayed up way too late. They had a great time, although they were so tired on Monday from staying up so late at the cottage that the day was pretty much a write-off; it's the first time in three years that I've seen Seth physically done in during the day!
Meanwhile Lizzie and I had a very different kind of weekend. The weather wasn't great and I started the weekend feeling a little under the weather, so we enjoyed a low key day at home. Earlier in the week (not knowing about the upcoming girls' weekend), Lizzie had shared with me that she wished that sometime she and I could watch some 'girl' movies without the boys around...and so we did! She watched three Barbie movies on our first day together! That night we ordered in pizza and she got to drink a cup of root beer...a big treat, indeed! Then we climbed together into Geoff's and my bed and crawled under the same blanket and I read her books that she picked out. We went to sleep together and she told me on Sunday morning that she'd had the best night ever, sleeping with me (which is something all three kids love to do on occasion).
The second day of our girls' weekend started with leftover pizza for breakfast (though no root beer, to Lizzie's disappointment), a long bath, another barbie movie, painting each other's fingernails with the same sparkly red, going for a walk, reading more stories, and just talking under a blanket. It really was a lovely time, and quite needed, given that Lizzie and I have been just a little off with each other recently. This gave us time to reconnect and to experience each other in a way that we hadn't for some time.
Lizzie is a real tomboy most of the time. With two older brothers who are stronger and faster and tougher, she's learned to throw herself full tilt into whatever activity they are engaged with. She wrestles with them both, and can take both of them down. She matches them toe for toe in a battle of words and opinions and will tackle either one of them in an impressive show of ferocity. She is, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with and a good match for her brothers. Though tender of heart and generous in spirit, she can be as tough as nails with those big boys in her life!
But when she's without her brothers, I find it fascinating to see the little girly-girl blossom inside of her. That's when her dolls come out more often; when she gravitates towards the barbie movies; when she changes her outfits a few times a day; when she wants to shop for clothes and paint her (and my) nails. She doesn't get this stuff from me - I'm still more accustomed to boys' antics, having parenting boys for over ten years now, and I'm not by nature into shopping or nail polish or doing hair. But it's certainly in Lizzie, and our weekend brought this to mind again - the importance cultivating that softer side of my daughter and not assuming that these things aren't part of who she is.
Geoff and I try hard to give the kids each one-on-one time, on a very regular basis, and this weekend was a different version of that, I suppose, even though it was both boys together with Geoff. I hope we do it again because I think it strengthened and renewed Lizzie's and my bond, and gave Geoff and the boys new memories to treasure. It takes effort to deliberately and regularly make time for the kids on an individual basis - life is really busy. Also, because we're schooling at home, we tend mostly to simply be with each other all of the time.
But I find the effort required to be so worth it. The kids are different when they're one-on-one with either of us; and it's another great opportunity for us to get to know them better as the unique individuals that they were created to be. Our kids are so very different in nature - all three of them somehow so different in personality and tendencies and strengths and challenges and interests. The more we can work at knowing them, the richer we hope our understanding of them will be and the greater the support we can offer them as they explore the world around them and seek to understand their place in it as they grow older. I find that so exciting...and worth the extra effort!
I should have taken pictures of our girls' weekend. But the memories are tucked inside for future reference, and I am glad that in this busy life, mother and daughter can still make time to relax together and build relationship...that lasts longer even than any photograph.