COUSIN MOMS ◽ TIPS
Mom of Three
If I’m being honest, date nights – going out – are few and far between. We were in a season for a long while where we really didn’t want to leave the kids, because free nights were few, and we wanted to include them. Date nights are definitely important, but there is also a balance. For us, we do a good job of connecting on a daily basis – at night when the kids are asleep we chat and talk. Other times, we get a random night when kids are at a sports practice or with grandparents. This past season, while the kids were in school, my husband and I had lunch together because we both work at home! I do know that having time with him, dating him, is important. But only “date night” connections every so often is not enough, and we also have a budget, but day-to-day connections work as well.
It’s the day to day connections where we chat and spend time over coffee, or even a ride in the car to pick up the kids, that works for us! Our date nights don’t have to be big or fancy or every week. They can be a simple lunch or a shopping excursion to pick out wood floors for the house!
When we do have a designated date night, we often stay in (to save money). We watch a show we enjoy together, and have dinner at home, and make it cozy. If we do go out, it’s a coffee date for sure – and sometimes bowling! Our love language is coffee, and we sometimes play a game. We don’t visit the theater a lot, because we watch enough shows at home. We like to go somewhere that we can talk and do something, or even just walk around!
Sometimes we plan our dates nights together, or sometimes we surprise each other – especially on birthdays.
So both – date nights out and daily connections – are a great balance for us! I’ve been so grateful for this season. Finding time with toddlers is hard, but now that the kids are in school we have more time. We also love to serve together, and call that connection, because we are super compatible that way!
THREE MOMS ◽ TIPS
As a parent, it might be one of the hardest tasks ever…teaching our kids to be grateful. Can it even be taught, or does it have to be observed and then imitated…and then it sinks into our hearts? I don’t know the answer, but I know it’s necessary to train our kids this time of year (and all year) to give thanks for all things, in every circumstance, so that they can see and taste the goodness of God in their lives and never forget. And when they do, hopefully they will then give. So we asked our moms of the littles what they do to stir up thanks in their kiddos this season.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are almost here, and I cannot believe it! And being thankful and loving, and all of the true meanings of the seasons are awesome to celebrate. So what do we do as parents to create a sense of thankful hearts?
My girls are ages 5 and 7, and an infant! We do try to be thankful every single day, not just at Thanksgiving. We do this especially when they’re fighting over a toy, or who got what, or if they go to a birthday party and see something they really want. Or perhaps that friend has something they don’t have and our girls say, “That’s not fair.” We take time to pause and remind them of what they do have and what God has given them. We give thanks for a roof over our heads, food in the pantry, and a family that loves us. We remind them that so many do not have even those basic needs. Thinking of all the families in the current war overseas, we often take for granted our lives here. So we try to take those moments of jealousy or bitterness and teach the girls that we need to instead be thankful for what we have.
About twice a year, usually before their birthdays and before Christmas, we go through toys and package up ones to donate. We talk during that time as well, about the opportunity to bless others with what we have. That is one practical way we put our words in to actions by learning to give what we have, to experience the joy of giving.
Another holiday activity we do is Operation Christmas Child. Every year our church does a packing party, where we write letters and fill shoe boxes for gifts for the kids. And every year, the girls want one of the gifts we are giving away. Another teaching moment! We again remind them that we are giving and sharing the love of Jesus with others. So we try to involve our family in projects to give thanks and give to others.
I would love at some point be able to serve food to the homeless, like I did when I was younger. And as Christmas approaches, we try to not be overwhelmed with gift buying and parties and functions. We did have an advent calendar last year, and every night we read a bit of the bible story of Christmas. An advent is a great way to countdown to Christmas, to keep it true.
From the end of September, through October and November, I get so excited, as it’s the start of all the holidays things! We love to create new traditions and true “getting away from it all” events to make memories. It might be a pumpkin patch, looking at lights, and all the things! It’s my favorite time of the year!
So we used to have the kids set up a nativity, as we had this cool wooden set where we hid the star each night…and then we read part of the Christmas story. But as the kids have gotten older, we found a tree that is the family tree of Christ. We read a bible story each night of a family in the family tree of Christ. Sometimes we didn’t finish all of them, because we were busy, and that happens! I do love it because we love presenting who Christ is, not just his birth, and how we are part of his family! All the lineage of Christ is amazing and encourages us to read the Bible.
We don’t really do Santa totally, but we just teach that it’s the heart behind Santa and giving gifts. We do put out cookies, but the kids know that we are Santa. Santa is fun and a part of the spirit of Christmas, but we don’t want to be lost in the shuffle of Santa or Elf on the Shelf.
We do clean the kids’ rooms before Christmas, to share yes – but also to make room for the new. Sometimes they just want a bigger house and a second room for more (yes, they have asked for that!) So then we have a talk about being grateful for what we have. This is hard because they feel disloyal to the person that gave it to them when they part with a gift. But we talk about donating and sharing with others to bless them. We have put things on FB marketplace for free, for other parents to grab. One time our daughter wanted to get rid of her dolls and accessories, and she wanted to sell them. But at Christmas, we ended up giving them to a friend of mine for her 2year old daughter. Getting the photos of her daughter’s face opening the gift was the coolest thing ever. I showed my daughter, too, how keeping things and stewarding them and then giving them is such a blessing. I will cherish this forever. That little girl was so excited.
Do we do all of this perfectly? No. I can get lost in the extravaganza of the season, which is wonderful! WE love blessing our children with gifts and activities, but we try to have balance and teach them to be grateful. Last year we ended up with Covid on Thanksgiving, and didn’t have a full meal. It was so hard for me personally, as I love this tradition with my family. But we sat around the table and gave thanks for food and that we were getting well. So though it wasn’t big, we loved the little things as well. WE weren’t dressed up, we were in our pajamas, but it was still special and we were present and grateful.
The holidays are hard and stressful, with financial and family tensions and illness, and we’ve had it all! But it’s important as parents to do our best to be grateful and have joy in the little things, throughout the season. And whether they get one present or 40, the kids will follow our example of gratefulness, not the perfect memories or gifts. It’s okay to pivot each year when surprises arrive, because memories will happen in all of it! Just bring joy!