Tag Archives: cousins

Large Family Stuggles — or Benefits?

mfgroupDuring the Easter holiday season, we took off some extra days for spring break and headed to Florida to visit with family. This week, my children have spent time with cousins ages 6 months to 26 years, and for the most part, they’ve had a lot of fun together. Interacting with so many people, though, means there will likely be some problems. Even within the immediate family, personalities are so different that they’re bound to clash sometime; multiply that number by four or five, and there will be more than a few arguments.  Small disputes and bickering are likely to occur, especially when so much time is spent together.

But if you have a large family, you know that’s actually one of the benefits of having so many relatives. Within the safety and comfort of the extended family, my children can learn to relate to all kinds of people, ones they get along with as well as ones that don’t share their same views. They learn how to be kind and include someone in a game even if they don’t want to, and they can come to adults they know well for help if difficult situations arise.

Interestingly, this time there was even peer pressure at work among the teenage/pre-teen cousins. When my daughter Cassie was looking for something to do, she asked her cousin if she had any ideas. “No,” the cousin replied. “I just do what the others want to do so they’ll include me.” Cassie , who at 11 years old falls in between the “older” and “younger” groups of cousins, was very surprised, but it was a good lesson. Even among family, someone can feel pressured to fit in.

So while this week has been a nice break, it’s been a time of learning as well. Time for my kids to relate to others  a little better, and a time for me to sharpen my parenting skills. And as the extended family continues to grow and change, I know we’ll grow and change as well.

A New School Year

school yearThis year I thought we’d get an early start on school. It seems our year is often interrupted, so if we had an early start, we’d hopefully finish up in May.

Well, that’s what I thought. My plan was to begin on August 10 and jump right in with school five days a week. Too ambitious? Apparently so!

The first three days of that week, my husband was off, and he needed my oldest son’s help on a project. I worked that first day with the other three on their lessons, but then we decided to take the next two days off, since their brother had it off anyway. The end of the week was my birthday, and we’ve made it a general rule not to do school on birthdays. This does not include the birthdays of extended family, though, or we’d never get anything done. So, that left just one day, and, well, there didn’t really seem much point in that.

Next week, I told myself, we’ll get started, and it’ll be great!  However, John is part of a homeschool FCA club (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), and they had their last big outing of the summer scheduled for that next Monday. They went hiking, leaving in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. I could have worked with the girls and Luke on their lessons, but I decided to delay, just one more day, so we could all start at the same time.

We finally got started on Tuesday, and we had a really good day. Wednesday the children worked hard again. But Thursday we had the opportunity to visit with cousins we don’t often see – we took off and it was a good day, but we didn’t work on schoolwork, and we got home late. That made Friday less productive than it should have been.

So, although we had ten potentially good school days, only three could be counted. But I’m glad it happened at the beginning. We had started early, so no time was really lost. And I realize once again how easily distracted I can be, and how important it is for me to set a plan and stick with it. Perhaps next year, though, we’ll start in July.

Fun With a Garden Hose

hoseWe’re still in central Florida, and the temperatures have been high!  Last week they were in the mid-90s, but with the humidity, the weatherman said it felt more like 105 degrees. I’d say he was right. 

But this past Saturday, there was a lot going on in the house, so we moved all the young cousins outdoors — yes, even in the afternoon!  The children played on a tire swing tied to a large shade tree in the yard, but the fun didn’t last long. It was just too hot. That is, until we brought out the hose. 

We started by connecting it to a wide, rotating sprinkler that sprayed water overhead. I had suspected my five-year-old would enjoy it, but I was surprised when my two-year-old nephew joined in. Perhaps it was because his cousins were laughing as they were splattered, but he smiled too, even as he was sprayed squarely in the face. 

After about thirty minutes, one of the children picked up a cup and started filling it with water from the sprinkler. I went in to get some more, and soon everyone was filling up their cups and dumping the water on each other. We then pulled out the little wading pool, and soon they were trying to fill it up with the water in their cups. We unhooked the sprinkler and used the water directly from the hose, making the chore go a little faster.

 About thirty more minutes had past when some of the older ones realized it was going to take a lot of cupfuls to get the job done. We then unhooked the sprinkler and put the hose directly in the pool. A little dishsoap, and the pool was soon full of bubbles. They put the bubbles on their heads, their faces, each other. They put bubbles in bowls and stirred them up. They threw bubbles all around the yard. 

Who knew they’d have so much fun? About three hours since we first brought them out, the children were ready for supper, which was served on card tables outside as well. Then they all resumed playing until it was time to get ready for bed. It was a  well-spent afternoon – few quarrels and a good time together. I’m going to give it a try at home too — right after I buy a new hose.

Difficult Situations

159472497_b6835aa840When my children returned from camp this year, they told me about the fun things they did and the good food they ate. They also told me about other children there who weren’t easy to get along with — they didn’t play the games fairly, they teased them, and sometimes they took their things.

These issues, which were minor to their cousins who also attended camp, were major concerns for my children. We began talking about how they responded and what they might do differently if it happened again, which it would, either at camp or somewhere else.

One of the reasons we homeschool is to protect our children from situations that they aren’t yet mature enough to handle. Growing up in the public school system myself, I remember many times people said or did things that were clearly wrong, and I just didn’t know how to respond. There were times things happened and I never told my parents, so they weren’t aware of what was going on. I didn’t want it to be that way for my kids.

But here we are at a crossroads — the fine line between over-protection and learning a life skill. At what age should a child be made to deal with a difficult situation, especially one involving their peers? Part of me is satisfied that they haven’t had to think about it much until now, and part of me feels they could have handled things better at camp had they only known how.

Part of me, too, tells me that every child is different; there’s no magic age for taking a stand, confronting a problem, or struggling through peer pressure. What one child is able to handle might be too difficult for another. But as mom and teacher, I can work to keep the lines of communication with my children open, and we can figure it out together.

Photo by joshuaone6to9

Letting Go

togetherThis past spring brought several new experiences for me, one of which was letting my children go to visit relatives for more than just a day.

I had my first taste of their growing independence last year when the three oldest went to camp last summer. I was confident about them going, as my brother and sister-in-law ran the camp, my niece was one of the counselors, and they had three cousins going as well. I have to admit, though, I was sad when I saw them off on the bus and glad when they returned home again. All three of them reported having a great time.

This past May, we did a lot of traveling, and the kids had the opportunity to stay with different family members, some for as long as four or five days. Again, it was so hard to let them go, and I missed them so much. Some enjoyed themselves more than others; a couple of them got homesick, which made me even sadder. My third child, Lillie, who had thoroughly enjoyed camp the year before, seemed to have the most trouble adjusting.

What I learned:  children need room to grow and try new things, but it doesn’t have to be right now or all at once. Lillie’s only eight – there’s still lots of time for independence, as well as lots of time for hugs and kisses. It’s not a terrible thing that she still wants to be close by, that she still wants to hold my hand, that she still wants to snuggle at night. In fact, I need to take advantage of those opportunities while I can. Time goes by so quickly, and soon she won’t want to do those things anymore; she’ll be independent…and I’ll wish she wasn’t.

Family Land

streamdr5About 25 years ago, my father purchased some property in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. He had several different plans for the land, including a youth camp and a place for his retirement home. Sadly, he passed away before his dreams could be realized. We still enjoy the property, however, as a family reunion site every Memorial Day weekend.

 This year was one of our biggest gatherings yet. My mom and seven of the eight children made it, along with spouses, 26 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Some of older grandchildren went hiking while the younger ones played in the river. Some slept in the cabin while others camped in the valley. We played volleyball and soccer in the open field. We painted rocks to look like bugs and mice. We cooked hotdogs over a fire and ate more than a few s’mores.

Traveling to see family has always been a priority to me, and this past weekend was a good reminder of why. What a blessing it was to see my children having such a great time with all of their cousins – cousins who ranged in age from one year to twenty-six years old. They played games with aunts and uncles and talked with their grandmother – it was good to watch them just enjoy each others’ company. 

Even though my mom and siblings live quite far from us, we’ve been able to maintain close relationships, due in part to get-togethers like this one. And the family continues to grow. This year, one new great-grandchild has already arrived, and two more are due in the months to come. We’ll take trips to see them, and hopefully they’ll make it to the mountain property next Memorial Day.

 Though it may not be exactly what my dad had intended, I think he would be pleased with how the land is being used, as it brings his family together again and again.