Collecting our Children

I am still reading “Hold On To Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.

It is a not a quick read; I have been reading it for months. Not consistently however. I like to read a bit. Then think. Then read. Then think. Then see it in action. Re-think. Then re-read. Sometimes when I re-read I get something completely different out of the chapter.

This week we are up at the cottage and I have thought back to a chapter they wrote called “Collecting Our Children”.

In this chapter, the authors talk about “drawing our children under our wing, making them want to belong to us and with us”. We need to “collect” them – frequently; daily, even with every interaction. Draw them close to us, and then interact, share, discipline, and communicate.

The whole premise of this excellent book is how we, as parents, need to matter more than peers. They give some everyday suggestions about how to do this.

Some things that jumped out about “collecting our children” are the little rituals, and traditions that we create for our children and with our children. Special time with family is a way of attaching and a way of collecting to ensure a lasting bond.

The authors talk about making family vacations sacred; something only for your family. It is not the time to invite friends to be with you. If you do, your kids will end up hanging out with friends, and not you.

We were in Dominican Republic this past March break and overlapped with some friends of ours for the first few days. And it is exactly true. The kids hung out together and we, as adults all hung out and chatted too. It was a very fun vacation – but it was divided between a “friends” vacation and a “family” vacation. Nothing wrong with it – we had a blast – and it did serve a purpose. But it was very different to a full on “family” vacation.

I’ve watched this here at the cottage this week too. There are 4 other families that are up here; three of them are friends. Their kids are all friends and they are all spending time together. But you don’t really see the parents around that much as they don’t need to be. Their kids are busy with other kids.

It’s funny because our kids don’t seem that keen to hang out with these other kids. They have played a few games in the evenings, or in the water, but generally speaking, they want to hang out together and with us.

I’ve seen them like this before; I’ve always thought of them as being a little anti social. What is wrong with them? Are they insecure that they always want to hang around us? That they always need a sibling around with them? Is this some sort of strange separation anxiety that must be left over from the divorce? Don’t they need to learn how to interact with peers as well and aren’t they missing a great opportunity?

Thinking about “collecting our children”, I have now a different perspective. I’m happy they are acting a little bit anti social and wanting to just hang out with us. I’m happy that they have playmates in each other and are perfectly content to want to just be together.

I now see it as a plus: they are building security in our family. They are building lasting ties with each other – and with us. They are learning to interact with each other and problem solve and deal with conflict.

It’s not like my kids don’t get enough “social time”. They go to school and church. They attend camps in the summer and participate in extra curricular activities year round. They play street hockey in the backyard with neighborhood kids and soccer in the park. They have playdates, birthday parties, and sleepovers. They do get time to work on their “social” skills.

What they need is good, solid, protected family time: Family dinners, weekly family home evening, family reading time, family movie nights, family sleepovers, family soccer games, family scriptures and prayer time…and this week, family vacation time.

Time to collect my children.

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