Making Time for Teens


Parenting / Friday, March 1st, 2019

I was going to make this just a post on our current ‘Morning Time’ routine, but when I started fleshing out what I wanted to say, I realized that right now, the thing I love about morning time is actually that it gives me more one on one time with my teens. And that is what I thought people might need to read about; how in a crazy household of multiple ages and interests, with public, special, online, and homeschool schedules running concurrently, we manage to spend time with our teens, and all together as a family.

You think it’s crazy when everyone is in the single digits- and it is insanely crazy– but once you have more kids in double digits and adolescence, you still don’t have any more time on your hands. I mean, my older kids are very independent, but they still can’t drive themselves to activities, and checking their work is more time consuming because essays, algebra, and labs require more feedback that a few random workbook pages.

And just when I thought I’d figured out the exact school plan for this year, I decided I didn’t like it because everyone was spending all their time working independently in front of a screen and never saying two words to each other for large chunks of the day (while also not really enjoying schooling all that much).

At the same time, Tony was concerned we weren’t all spending enough family time together; that our teens were off in the basement or their rooms most of the day (and night). He felt like the few hours he could spend with everyone in the evenings and weekends was looking very different from how it looked in the past.

The thing is, we probably spend more time together than the average family. We certainly have outside activities and commitments and busy seasons, but more nights than not, we still have meals together. Gathering around a table of food is a great way to enjoy the company of our older kids, and their friends. We also started having dessert after every meal, but the table had to be cleared and everyone ate it together (vs wandering off through the house with a handful of Oreos), which usually means that later in the evening, we reconvene around the table to satisfy our sweet tooth. It’s amazing how kids who are too engrossed in school work, or a book, or an online chat, can pull themselves away for a bowl of ice cream.

For me personally, I made the mistake of thinking that since I had my two youngest in school, I could put a lot more projects on my own plate; that outsourcing some of my daily work equalled oodles of more free time. And while it has been easier to undertake several new projects (book, conference, speaking, etc.) it certainly wasn’t an even swap (i.e. boys in school six hours = six free hours a day). So, my day is currently more overbooked than most simply because I overestimated the time I would have this year. I needed to carefully plan my time to manage housework, homeschooling and my own projects, but without a set morning meeting time that we had during the 2017-18 school year, my time with my older kids during the day was reduced to answering the occasional question and weekly meetings. In addition to all the other reasons I mentioned earlier for switching up or school this year, I realized that I missed learning with them, especially since learning alongside older kids means meatier discussions, more interesting tangents, and provides content for all sorts of interesting discussions for days to come.

Time with teens needs to be scheduled. Younger children will cling to you and not leave your side night or day. When you can finally peel their sticky fingers off your legs for a second to run to the bathroom, you spend those few minutes with them banging on the door longing for a quieter future that seems long in coming. But eventually it does, even if you still have younger kids clamoring for your attention, you notice there’s less noise from your older kids. You celebrate their independence and maturity, and you quickly realize that it’s nice to have someone to talk to during the day who isn’t obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. But now you need to engage them, as they are less likely to hunt you down and share their discoveries.

For us, meals and morning time provide that time to come together. I’ve added in walks to the library and store, which someone is usually happy to join me on (the novelty of the new town having not worn off), and of course there’s drives in the car to fencing, scouts, Mass, appointments, etc. If the younger ones are along for the ride, they will try to monopolize the conversation, but I like to hear how all the kids can joke with one another. So there are always sporadic moments of togetherness, however it is in the routine family time of meals and scheduled morning time that we continually connect with each other.

When I think, “This week is so hectic! There’s something every night!” and generally complain about how busy modern life is, I try to remember I have a washing machine, a dishwasher, two vehicles, running water, heat, electricity, a flushing toilet, and numerous other modern conveniences that actually save me tons of time every day. The time crunch I feel is of my own making. Because I don’t need to carry water, dry my few clothes in the sun, or spend hours searching for the fuel to cook my dinner, I can anxiously fret about first world problems that I’ve chosen to pack into my day. So really, if it all seems like too much, I can change course. Many people can’t choose to stop all the daily labor their life requires. I can drop an activity, move appointments, or decide everyone is staying home for the night and the consequences aren’t life threatening. I’m not saying we should feel free to break commitments and drop out of things last minute, just that we really do have more freedom to plan our days as we see fit than we often choose to believe. In that vein, I will meet all my personal goals on their relative deadlines, but you better believe I’m not going to undertake so much down the road!

Embracing a more relaxed homeschool that included morning time again, and making time for family dinners both go against the idea I’m struggling with more lately of preparing my children for college. I go through spells where I worry they will not be prepared academically or have enough extra curriculars to get the scholarships and financial aid they’ll need to attend the colleges of their choice. Also, they will lack all the executive function skills needed to succeed outside the four walls of my house. So I take it upon myself to find more rigorous curriculum, more “opportunities” and try to plan what it will take to make my child desirable to colleges and not someone who will want to live in my basement writing fan fiction and eating ramen noodles all day.

But so much of what has made my kids great kids up to this point has been not worrying about college and just teaching what we think is important while making lots of time for beach visits, family activities, and letting the kids discover their own interests in their own time.

I need to continually work on the idea of letting go of COLLEGE being the end all be all, and remember I’m raising kids for a life beyond higher education, and ultimately heaven. In that regard, our choices up to this point have made sense. I told Tony that our kids come to the table for meals, share in conversation with one another, and even if they’re holed up in their room or basement, they all stop what they’re doing to help with the boys, or do a chore they forgot, or join in a family board game, and not begrudgingly (usually). They still participate in our family’s liturgical traditions and prayer time. I said I guess I could grant them their desires to be alone and undisturbed occasionally, even if it seems like we’re not spending as much time all together as we used to.

What am I trying to say with all this rambling? Well, forming children into virtuous people is the ultimate goal right? Not raising children who get into Ivy League schools, play in the Olympics or start a billion dollar company (although those would all be great things for my children to do). So while I want my kids to be successful, that is what I hope will be one result of me raising them as faithful Catholics; success not being judged solely by things that gain notoriety or fame. And what it takes to raise faithful, virtuous children does not require more than what I have; not more time, more opportunities, more academics, or more money. When I remember that, and make time in our day for things that foster our family values, I can be at peace. How I make time for what’s important will change with each season. It looked different with a house full of littles, and now with much trial and error, I’m figuring out how it looks in a house of teens. Today it’s family meals, intentional activities, movie nights, a scheduled morning time, and an upcoming family trip to the beach (vs the years of impromptu day trips which I miss immensely).

Things will change as Addie makes her plans for her future (and I try to not interfere) and I’m sure I’ll need to write something down about that new phase when it arrives. Until then, it’s your turn. How was your week? Write it down then link it up below! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

3 Replies to “Making Time for Teens”

  1. This is a post I needed. We, too, have kids going in three different directions for school as of this school year, and I’ve yet to hit our groove. I’ve been frustrated, because unless I have a groove, I’m not at peace. Thank you for this post, because it’s giving me the hope that it can be done.

  2. Oh, but I loved your rambling!

    “I’m raising kids for a life beyond higher education, and ultimately heaven.” Thank you for that reminder. And also, yes, we have to be intentional, to be deliberate, to actually plan ways to make our contact time with our older kids not only sufficient but also meaningful. Oh, how quickly they grow!

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