I think about this a lot since my children will be starting middle school next year. Middle school means 900 students in three grades compared to 400 students in five grades at Richfield Dual Language School.
Middle school means dances, parties, old and new friends.
Middle school means more access to social media.
Middle school means I’m just outside of my parent’s reach.
Or, does it?
A strong family is in my mind because I want my children in my circle of influence. I don’t want them to make choices that have no do-over.
So, how to keep them close?
A lot of people believe that eating dinner together every evening or even several times a week is vital. That isn’t going to happen in our family. Jody and I often don’t eat dinner in the evening, although we make sure our children and their friends are well fed.
One constant in our life is putting the kids to bed. We take turns with them, as we have since they were infants. This of course, will become less practical as they get older.
I don’t want Antonio and Crystel to be lost in middle and high school like I was. I want them to be able to ask me for help without rebuke and even to bring their friends’ concerns to me if need be. I want to be accessible.
To this end, I’ve done a good job, even though at every school conference this year Jody and I’ve been surprised. The children take turns with who is having ‘issues.’I tell my kids that they couldn’t ever do anything worse than I did in school and that is the truth. The difference is the world is a much more dangerous place and a lot less forgiving than it was 44 years ago.
Having a strong family means having strong relationships within the family. It’s very important to me that Antonio and Crystel are friends. Sometimes, I still remind them that we adopted them together so they would always have each other.
Mondays have become our family Tae Kwon Do day. It is our sit down dinner. Antonio, Crystel, Jody and I are black belts. We have had many meals together the last several years. Our testing day is a banquet.
Once in a while we have game night, and when Amazing Race is on television, we all gather around imagining Mama Beth and Mama Jody as contenders.
Out of all that we do, I think it is our adventures that keep us strong. Doing new and different activities or eating meals in new restaurants. Since I won the Loft Mentor Series, we’ve been attending the readings as a family and eating out at a new restaurant prior to the reading.
And then there are our more adventurous trips which go a long ways toward bonding us as a family—camping in the Boundary Waters, visiting Guatemala, taking a train to Chicago, Mexico, driving to Arkansas, Florida, and cross country skiing in Wisconsin.
Sharing the above with family and friends also tightens the bond.
A strong family can mean many things. Tonight a strong family means no electronics and no friends over until all MIS (missing homework) on a fifth grader’s conference report are replaced with a grade.