We are doing something this summer that we haven’t done before — sending our kids to a bunch of camps. Now, these are “day camps”, where they spend a few hours off doing something, then come home before dinner. However, for us it’s new.
Zoe is 13, and at “zoo camp” this week. This is a great experience for her, but it means she leaves the house at 7:30 and comes back around 4:30. Then at 6, she and her siblings head off to soccer camp for two hours.
We’ve only been doing this for two days (Monday and Tuesday), when Tommy said something that made me stop and think. He’s 11, and was talking with Zoe about the day. He said, “You leave early in the morning, get home just in time for dinner, then leave again. I hardly ever see you.” My wife Brenda overheard him, and said, “That’s what normal families do.”
See, we homeschool, so he’s used to being around all of the family all of the day. Having an older sister whom he doesn’t see all day is different, it’s weird. It’s not normal.
When we first started homeschooling, one of our goals was to have our kids be best friends with each other. We each had friends who were great companions during our school years, but whom we never see anymore. However, we do see our brothers and sisters, so our thought was to strengthen and deepen those relationships; we know those will last throughout their lifetimes.
So it struck me, as Brenda was talking with Tommy, that Tommy didn’t know what “normal” families do. He didn’t know that normal families don’t spend a lot of time with each other, don’t see each other throughout the day, and often begin to drift apart as the kids reach their teen years. At least, that’s what happened in Brenda and my families. We still have good relationships with our siblings, but they’re not as strong as they were…or as they could be.
My oldest, Samantha, makes sure this doesn’t happen. She told me a little while ago that even though she’s attending the local college, she thought about moving out of the house. She opted not to, though, and her main reason was this: her littlest sister, Nellie, was only four years old. If Samantha moved out, she reasoned, then she wouldn’t end up being a sister to Nellie, but more like an aunt. She would come over to visit, and maybe stay for dinner, but she wouldn’t spend quantity time with Nellie, she wouldn’t see her in passing…she wouldn’t live with Nellie. So Sam chose to live at home, if only to form a lasting bond with a pre-schooler sixteen years her junior.
That’s our family. That’s different. But our kids don’t know it.
What’s your family like?