Operation Connect 10

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Do you ever look at your kids and wonder “who are these little strangers?” Ever wonder what interests them, motivates them, makes them happy, makes them sad……. scares them? What about this, have you ever laid in bed and suddenly realized that you didn’t say a single meaningful word to your kids all day? Ouch, that hurts, doesn’t it. I’ve experienced that feeling, and it’s why I’m determined to do something about it this year. I’m even going to give it a name, Operation Connect 10. Yep, I’m one of those weirdos who gives names to these sorts of things. I have this idea that if you name your plan it gives it some sort of legitimacy. Whether or not it true, is yet to be determined.

For the past few months.we have been binge watching Chuck (if you have Amazon Prime you can watch it here). I’m pretty sure the show inspired the name. I’m not sure it works though. I keep picturing a much more difficult version of Connect 4 in my mind.

A Simple Plan

I named my plan Operation Connect 10, because the idea is to average 10 minutes of quality one-on-one time with each of my kids, every day (or as close to it as I can). It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that I have six kids. Six kids equals one hour. Every day. Yikes!

When I first started mapping this article out in my head, I thought I’d talk about the reasons why parents should spend more one-on-one time with their kids. Of course, you already know that connecting with your kids is important. So, I decided to share what I have done (or in some cases will do) to improve the quantity and quality of my one-on-one time with my own kids. So, now the goal of this article, is to provide you with some inspiration, and a few ideas for connecting with your own kids.

Renaissance Girl

My oldest child seems to have an iron in every fire. She’s into Minecraft, fantasy novels, National Geographic, cooking, and grocery shopping. She never misses an opportunity to go with me to our local H.E.B. She’s nearly thirteen, and her personality is really beginning to bloom. She has opinions and interests and I ‘m in danger of falling behind if we don’t connect one-on-one on a daily basis.

The other day, someone told me that Renaissance Girl will most likely lose her mind at age 14 and if I’m lucky, she’ll get it back when she’s 16. That’s depressing news. Perhaps I’m naive. but I’m hoping to avoid such craziness through homeschooling and staying connected. Only time will tell.

Fortunately, I always need something from the store and she always wants to go with me. I’ve decided to take advantage of the drives to and from the store to catch up with her thoughts. We never lack for something to talk about. She loves to cook with me, which also provides an opportunity for us to chit chat while we cut vegies and stir the sauce.

Renaissance Girl is a night owl, and often reads or does school work while lying in bed. Since the beginning of the year, I have made it a point to go in and hang out with her in her room for five or ten minutes after putting the rest of the kids down for the night. More Love Mama has been doing this for a while and sometimes these after hours chat sessions have lasted far bayond 10 or 15 minutes. I think that’s a good thing. It means they are connected.

Between shopping, cooking, and bedtime, the two of us are going to be getting plenty of face time in 2020.

Game Boy

My second oldest (and oldest boy) is a real tough nut. He likes to keep his thoughts to himself. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t crave attention. I’ve been trying to find ways to spend some quality time with him for quite some time now. Taking him out on excursions, and short daddy/son dates have resulted in lots of painfully quiet trips. He doesn’t like to go shopping, or anywhere else for that matter. He’d rather play video games or watch TV, which I hate because that means he spends too much time laying around on the couch or on his bed. For a while now, I’ve made a real effort to get him out of the house to play football or basketball with his friends, ride his bike, or anything to get him up and moving. For the most part, this has been successful, but it has done nothing for our one on one quality time.

It finally occurred to me this week that, like it or not, the best way to connect with him will be to play video games with him. I’m not crazy about giving him even more reason to sit around playing them, but I’ve got to find a way to connect with him. Hopefully, playing video games with him will help me crack through that shell of his just enough to make a deeper connection. Perhaps by spending more time with him, we’ll be able to find more common ground for making a connection. He’s a great kid, he’s got a good heart, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him better. After all, there is no such thing as being too connected with your kids.

Today I went up into the attic and retrieved the Wii. I don’t know if it will work. If it does, I’ll let you know.

Busy Bee

My third oldest kid hardly stops moving. He doesn’t care for passive activities at all. He’d rather do things. He likes projects. Busy Bee would rather build or fix something than play video games or watch TV. Furthermore, Busy Bee isn’t much for talking. In fact, he’s the polar opposite of his sister, Renaissance Girl. He doesn’t like anything “academic” either. To him, reading together is just secret school. Sometimes he’s in the mood for it, and sometimes he isn’t.

When he grows up, Busy Bee wants to be a truck driver, or construction worker. He wants to go places and work with his hands. Fair enough, Busy Bee, we don’t have to sit around talking or reading. Instead, the two of us can continue to work side by side on projects like converting this dresser into a bookshelf for our school supplies.

It isn’t pretty, but it’s functional. More importantly, Busy Bee had fun helping me make the conversion from dresser destined for the trash , into a place to put our overflowing school supplies.

Busy Bee and I have worked on lots of projects together, like this one:

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, we plan to put this together.

We may not do a lot of talking, but we are connecting for sure.

The Athlete

More Love Mama and I adopted Busy Bee and The Athlete on the same trip to D.R.Congo. The two of them are only six weeks apart in age, so they have been pretty much raised as artificial twins. I suppose it’s a coincidence that both the Busy Bee and The Athlete aren’t much for chit chat. The Athlete is not one for “gushy girly talk” and he rarely shares his feelings unless he has flipped his lid (which is daily). He prefers me to simply be present with him. We enjoy tossing a ball together and that’s when I’m most likely to get a few words out of him. It’s amazing how much he knows about his favorite sport, football. He loves to share information about players and teams, and even though we aren’t solving the problems of the world, we seem to to have found a way to connect, and that’s enough for me.

Wiggle Worm

Second from youngest, is my daughter, Wiggle Worm. I call her that because she NEVER stops moving. Like a hummingbird, she flits from one thing to another, never doing anything for more than a couple of minutes. There are only three things she will slow down for: music, makeup, and playing with dolls. We’ve spent many hours (20-30 minutes at a time) watching Avril Lavigne, Lokua Kanza and Baby Metal. She sits in my lap, and we jam out to some music, while my feet fall asleep. The kid loves her music videos, and I need to take advantage of it and spend a few more minutes per week watching them with her.

When it comes to playing with makeup, I’m all in! That’s right, I love to play with makeup. I was a theater teacher in a previous life, and one of my specialties was makeup. This year I think the two of us are going to spend plenty of time playing with makeup. After that, we’ll throw in a few Barbie play dates. Do I need a Ken doll?

By far the easiest way to connect with Wiggly Worm is to read Harry Potter to her. She loves to snuggle next to me in my bed and listen (and comment) as I read. She would love to do this every night if I was willing. Well, I guess I need to be willing, because I really want to connect with that quirky little Wiggle Worm.

The Artist

I have bookend Renaissance girls. My youngest daughter likes to read and learn just like her oldest sister. Her true passion though, is art. She gets a kick out of making birthday cards for me and More Love Mama and she would spend hours drawing and painting if there weren’t so many other things to do. Like school. and chores, and cleaning her disaster of a room!

Recently, she purchased a whole bunch of art supplies with her Christmas money. She was really excited to experiment with her new easel, paints, pencils and pastels, and it hit me, I should sit down with her for a few minutes and do art with her. I’m no artist, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t matter much to her. Spending some time with daddy, doing what she loves, would be enough to secure our father daughter connection.

The Artist loves to read, too. We have spent many hours in bed cuddling and taking turns reading Junie B. Jones. Lucky for The Artist, she sleeps on a bottom bunk, which means I can crawl in next to her for a few minutes. We cuddle, while reviewing our day, and saying prayers. I can tell that this is an important ritual for her. so I try to never miss this particular appointment. She is almost always asleep in less than five minutes.

2020

I’m really looking forward to playing more catch with my Athlete, reading more Harry Potter with Wiggle Worm, and building more gadgets with the Busy Bee. I expect this year to be super rewarding as I play video games with the Gamer, sketching puppy dogs with the Artist, or just sitting on Renaissance Girl’s bed talking about dragons and princesses.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes you can create opportunities to connect with your kids, and sometimes you have to go where they are and meet them in their territory. Whatever and wherever they are, you should be able to find plenty of opportunities to spend quality one-on-one time them. Also, remember, connecting with your child doesn’t mean you have to talk. Just being present can be just as effective. It doesn’t have to be planned, but it can be. Most importantly, you have to be intentional about it. It may seem like it takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it. Besides, you’ll probably lose less sleep worrying about your relationship with your kids.

I’m excited about connecting with my kids this year, but first I gotta figure out how to improve my time management skills. Do you know of a good book?

Brian Wood

P.S.

Would you like more ideas for connecting with your kids? Subscribe to my newsletter, Timeout. In my January issue, I will include a list of ideas for spending more one-on-one quality time with your kids. Quality time that will help you to connect with them and improve your relationship. To subscribe to Timeout just click on the icon below and fill out two simple lines. I promise not to sell your information to Vladamir the Enforcer!

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