Big Kid Date Night

Last Saturday we sat around a long table, just ten of us, drawing on paper placemats as we waited for our calzones to arrive.  We laughed, told stories, and enjoyed being together.  Nobody spilled their drink, complained about the food, or crawled under the table.  This was a date with our big kids and was one of the best uses of our time and money that we’ve made in a long time.

When we were in Montana last month, Russ and I had time to reflect on our life as a family.  The most significant thing that came to us was the impact our adoptions have had on our older children. When our life began its downward spiral, we were struggling to cope with the needs of our children from “hard places” while parenting our little ones who were nine, five, three, and two at the time.  Our big kids were often left to fend for themselves.

Some of them reacted by pitching in and trying to help.  Others hid themselves from the chaos.  Some spent as much time away from home as they reasonably could.  We understood — if Russ and I could have run away, we just might have done it.

We knew our kids were struggling to deal with the life we now had.  Our dream of adopting orphans in order to love them and give them a family seemed to mock us at every turn.  We worried about our older kids, but then the next crisis would hit, or the next appointment, or the next set of phone calls and we didn’t have the time or energy to do what we most needed to do, which was stop and talk to them, ask how they were doing, see if we could ease the pressure off of them somehow.

In many ways, we failed them.  I’m not saying that to be overly dramatic, it is the hard truth.

To their credit, they survived.  Between them they graduated from high school, started college, started medical school, fell in love, got married, took jobs, learned to play the guitar, earned their Boy Scout Eagle awards, played sports, made friends, joined youth group, and somehow managed to continue living the life of teens and young adults.

A few weeks ago I sent them a group email asking them to set aside the evening of Nov. 6th for a Big Kid date with Mom and Dad.  We hired a babysitter for the first time in ages and took our six oldest out to dinner at our favorite calzone place.  We talked, ate, did some planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and generally enjoyed being together.

After dinner we came home and gathered in the family room for a Big Kid family meeting.  We talked to them about  the changes in their lives as the result of the choice we made to dive head first into loving and caring for orphans, and ultimately to become an adoptive family.  We gave them each an opportunity to talk without interruption, although in our family it was nearly impossible for everyone to be quiet.  Russ and I were surprised by some of what our children shared, and so very thankful.

It was a precious time – invaluable really.  We wanted to hear their hearts and I think we’ve made a good start.  This is the beginning of giving them more of ourselves; we don’t want to cast them aside in our efforts to rescue our other children.  They are all God’s gifts to us – each and every one of them.  We love them more than words can say and we are honored to call them our children.

How have your older children been impacted by the addition of their new siblings? Have you found ways to nurture your relationships with them? Please share with us. We can help each other, and in turn, love our children better.

Have a great start to your week. I’m still struggling along with this virus, but I think I’m improving.

Encourage one another,

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

38 Comments

  1. Courtney
    November 8, 2010

    wow. and i have kids: 9, 6, 5 and 2. and we are going to be bringing 2 boys home from rwanda. we don't know their ages or issues. we DO know it is going to rock our family. i have no idea what it's going to look like. but i REALLY appreciate this perspective. i'd LOVE you to share more. i'm SURE you did the best you could each moment. i don't mean to imply you would "change" anything – but if you could share some practical "tips" – to stay connected to our kids as we go through this – what would they be?? what a SWEET night you gave your older children!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Courtney, I'm glad to hear that you know it will rock your family. I had no idea of how true that would be! We were naive, to be sure. I would love to write a post on tips to stay connected with our kids while adding new siblings to the family. Great idea. I'll try to get to it later this week.

      Reply
  2. carla
    November 8, 2010

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS! Thank you for sharing and for the idea of having some time with just the older children. I feel our older children need this too and I'm going to start planning. I focused so much on our younger child's adjustment and just assumed that our older children were okay. Lately I have realized that we have grown apart and need to work on this. Glad to hear you are improving!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Carla, I'm so glad this helps you. I only wish we had done it all along. I think I felt guilty and a bit confused about how to love all of my kids. I didn't want there to be any difference between my original clan and our new kids. I've gotten much better at accepting the different needs they all have, and I'm much better at not feeling guilty.

      Reply
  3. Mama D's Dozen
    November 8, 2010

    So glad that you had a Big Kid Date Night. What fun!

    We have worked HARD to make sure our Big Kids have not lost out on life because of the adoptions. Obviously, there lives have changed … and it hasn't always been easy … but we have continued to make our relationships with our Big Kids a priority.

    One "rule" at our house: Mom will stay up as late as necessary, if a big kid wants to talk. No matter how little sleep that means mom will get, the Big Kids know that we can have hours of uninterrupted time if needed. Then, I PRAY for the Lord to multiply my sleep. 🙂

    We have also done a LOT of tag-team parenting (much harder the past 6 months with my husband working out of town). But … sweet husband will stay home with the young ones, while Mama goes to a weekend scrapbooking retreat with Big Sister. Or, Mama will stay home with the Young Ones, while Papa takes the Big Kids out to dinner and a sporting event or a Christian Concert. While Mama would love to go to the Mariners Game or MercyMe Concert … she also releases Papa to do this with the Big Kids.

    This past weekend, Mama took the 6 youngers to a Christian Improv. Comedy Show. I knew that the 2 younger girls wouldn't get anything out of it, but I knew that the teens would really like to go. So, we went, even if it wasn't how the younger ones would have chosen to spend the evening.

    A few weeks ago, I asked 3 of the Big Kids to cover the young ones for 3 days (1 Big Kid per day), since Papa was out of town, so that I could take the 2 teens across the state so that they could run in a Marathon Relay with 2 of the Big Kids that live across the state. My Big Kids don't mind "tag-team parenting" with me, when they know that they too will get their Mama time or Papa time.

    Hope this helps. Glad that you and Russ have realized how important it is to make time for the Big Kids. We LOVE spending time with our Big Kids.

    Laurel

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Laurel, it sounds like you have done a really good job with this. For some reason, it was very difficult for us to maintain balance, but it may just have been our kids' ages, personalities, the severity of the behavior we were dealing with, the way our new children interacted with our youngers, having two new babies (with Eby 23 months and Little Man 4 months) etc. Every family is just so different. This was extremely hard for us, but God is good and He kept our big kids in His hand and then gave us a chance to love them more as we regained balance. I love having big kids, and now a son-in-law too. We enjoy them so much!

      Reply
  4. Joelle Holland
    November 8, 2010

    Thanks for writing. Your post made me cry. Even without the addition of adopted children I grieve over the mistakes I've made and the areas of hurt I see in my older children. We laugh together and continue to grow but I think a mother's heart particularly feels the pain of any hurt our children feel. I'm grateful for a heavenly Father that loves my children far more perfectly than I do and that I can trust Him to continue nurturing and helping my children grow.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Joelle, I'm thankful that even as our children grow, they still need us in so many ways. Your kids are wonderful! We enjoyed seeing Ben this summer – what a fine young man he is becoming. And your girls are lovely.

      Reply
      1. Joelle Holland
        November 9, 2010

        Thanks for the encouragement. I think this stage is the hardest for me–I call it the stage of being evaluated on whether we succeeded or not and far too often I see what I wish I had done differently than what is good. I'm glad you got to see Ben. We are still waiting for a visit–hoping Christmas will work out.

        Reply
  5. sleighs79
    November 8, 2010

    Thanks for this post Lisa! I'm going to share it with my husband later this evening. I tried to summarize this part of what you shared with me to him, but your own words are much better than mine!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Thank you! I'm so glad it is helpful to you and I appreciate you sharing it with your husband. I wish Russ had time to write his thoughts here – he would have so much to say and some of it would be said so much better! Maybe one day.

      Reply
  6. Tricia
    November 8, 2010

    I am looking forward to learning more from your experiences. Thanks so much for sharing. We are in the process of adopting two boys from Uganda. We have four little ones at home now, 7,5, 3 and 1 so I know the adjustments are going to be great. I probably can't even imagine how great they will be, so I am trying to do all the reading and brain-picking that I can, all the while knowing that it will be the grace of God to carry us all through safely.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Tricia, you are wise to learn and prepare as much as you can in advance. One thing that I would encourage you to do is create a team of people who know and love your children and will offer them respite by giving them breaks from their new life with two more siblings. It can come as a shock – even in good circumstances! Just like we need breaks, our children need them too.

      Reply
  7. Cari
    November 8, 2010

    Thank you for this post! I have been wondering/worrying about my older children {and younger ones} in our decision to bring home a 12 y.o. girl from a "hard place" just 4 1/2 months ago. My bio kids are 14, 12, 10 and two adopted 5, 2. I related completely to this part in your post:

    "When our life began its downward spiral, we were struggling to cope with the needs of our children from “hard places” while parenting our little ones who were nine, five, three, and two at the time. Our big kids were often left to fend for themselves.

    Some of them reacted by pitching and trying to help. Others hid themselves from the chaos. Some spent as much time away from home as they reasonably could. We understood — if Russ and I could have run away, we just might have done it."

    My husband and I are there right now…"struggling to cope" with her needs. I hope somehow the other kids will see what God has for them in this, too. I hope that they don't resent us for bringing her into our home. I pray that God heals her broken, lonely heart completely, and that my other children will see this miracle as an encouragement to passionately follow Him.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Cari, my heart goes out to you! I can imagine the transition you are in. If you need help, don't delay like we did, go after it. Your entire family will benefit from creating a "team" to come around you during this time.

      Reply
  8. jennifer
    November 8, 2010

    there is a great book by arleta james called brothers and sisters in adoption and it has some great ideas on how to nurture your relationships with your older children!~

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Jennifer, thank you for the recommendation. I have not heard of this book, but I'll add it to my list. Here is a link for anyone who is interested:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0944934358?ie=UT

      Reply
  9. learningpatience
    November 8, 2010

    This post makes me SO excited to have older kids! We are still in the stage of all littles, and I love it . . . but how fun to go out and have a big happy date with all of your big kids! Great idea!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 8, 2010

      Having big kids is a blast. Of course big kids bring big issues, but they also transition into being friends as well as children. It is very wonderful.

      Reply
  10. Wendy
    November 8, 2010

    This was a great heads up, Lisa! Our oldest is only 8 (with a 6 and 3 year old under that), and we're only bringing home a 6 month old…so I don't *think* we'll have major issues-but I'm sure we'll manage lots of minor ones!
    One of the traditions we have fallen out of the habit with is a "Daddy Date Night," and each week my husband would take one of the kids out for something fun and hopefully cheap or free! This post was the perfect reminder to "get on it" now, before we bring home our new daughter next month!

    Reply
  11. One Thankful Mom
    November 8, 2010

    Wendy, I love Daddy Date Night – that is just perfect. We did Mom and Dad Friday Lunches for awhile and our kids still talk about how much they loved that. We can't manage that right now, but we're going to try one Big Kid Date a month – even if it is just a coffee date. Most of all, we want our older kids to know they are dear to us and that we want to truly know them and be involved in their lives.

    Reply
  12. Kathrin
    November 9, 2010

    What an lovely idea. The pictures a very nice. Thank you for sharing.
    My oldest and I spend time together after the little one is in bed. But we haven't really done any outings together since the baby came home. Thank you for reminding me.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Maybe you could plan something special with your older child sometime soon. Let me know!

      Reply
  13. coffeemom
    November 9, 2010

    LIsa…love this post. Made me misty because i so get it. The cost of our adoptions to our older children is something that at times keeps me up at night. At times it makes it hard to breath. It's something that is grossly underestimated, or at least, was by us I think. That said…even so, some burdens are bearable, even tho difficult. TO ease that burden, we have a Daddy Date night every week too…rotating through all the kids except the three yr old. It seems to help and it treasured by all. But oh…a big kid date night!? What an idea and something we try to do when the college kids are in town. Great post. Hope you're feeling better too!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Thank you – I always appreciate your insights and love that we can help one another along. We've already set aside the Saturday night after Thanksgiving for our next Big Kid Date Night. This time we're thinking about gathering at Andrew and Mimi's little apartment for dessert or some kind of good food. We're also planning a Settlers of Catan tournament over Thanksgiving – that will include the younger kids, but at least we'll all be together. I am definitely beginning to feel better – wow, am I thankful I started the antivirals so early because this is still taking ages to get better.

      Reply
  14. Laura
    November 9, 2010

    I am so glad you took the time to do this. When you were in the midst of everything, I worried alot about your younger bio children and not about your older kids….I think I should have been concerned for all of them. I suspect all your kids were impacted in different ways and some more significantly than others. You and Russ are wise parents to allow the time for everyone to share and relfect on how adoption has impacted their lives since it was your choice and not theirs. Your kids are all wonderful, thoughtful, caring, and loving and you have done a great job with them.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Thank you, Laura, you know us so well and see us at our best and worst. It was such fun being with the big kids! I still can't believe Caleb helped babysit!

      Reply
  15. Elizabeth
    November 9, 2010

    Oh my goodness! I'm smacking myself upside the head because never in a million years would I have thought of this, but it is so simple and wonderful. I love the idea of making a date with my older children. My husband and I worked so hard to raise the wonderful older children, I want to enjoy them while they are still at home… which isn't for much longer!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Do it – and then blog about it! Send me a note and I'll put a link on my blog. I would love to see us love all of our children better.

      Reply
  16. theinnermostbox
    November 9, 2010

    After a three and a half year wait to bring our three adopted children home, we have been surprised that our first chapter as a forever family has been MUCH more of a struggle than we thought. After just over one month at home our adopted three seem to be adjusting well. Our nine year old bio boy seems to be adjusting well too. Our eleven year old, comfort-craving, little-bit-hormonal, pre-teen is not. And the biggest surprise for us, is how WE are not transitioning well. The demands on time, patience, and resources, going from two children to five have been dizzying. We are putting so much out there and feeling like we can't uncover enough time to put enough back in.

    Thank you so much for your honesty, your inhibition to share sentiments like "Our dream of adopting orphans in order to love them and give them a family seemed to mock us at every turn." It is a tremendous comfort to a newly adoptive mama like me!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Sometimes I fear I'm being a bit too honest – but I'm glad it is helpful. It is great that your new children are adjusting well – that is wonderful news. Be sure to give your eleven year old an extra measure of attention and love – that is a hard age under the best of circumstances! And take care of yourselves – get sleep, get exercise, get enough intimate time together, eat well, and be sure to take breaks, even if it is only to watch a funny movie after the kids are in bed.

      Reply
      1. theinnermostbox
        November 9, 2010

        Thanks so much! I've been reading through a couple of your older posts and LOVE your 'twelve hour rule.' I think we may just employ that rule here!

        I read that you go for therapy time in Seattle. We live just about an hour south of there, in Olympia. Is this attachment therapy? Although I think our kids might be attaching well, I think my husband and I might be struggling a little with this. We need a good recommendation or two. 🙂

        On a total grammar-geek note, I can't believe I wrote that I admire your "inhibition." I should have written something about your "disinhibition" – if that's a word! In other words, I admire your LACK of inhibition. 🙂

        Reply
        1. One Thankful Mom
          November 9, 2010

          Thanks for digging deeper into my blog. I did a "Best Of" (found on red bar at the top of the page) because I hated to think that some of my more helpful posts might be lost forever. I am working on getting a list of recommended therapists that I can send to people who inquire. I would also encourage you to seek out an older, experienced adoptive couple that can support you in this journey. Having a good therapist is a wonderful thing, but having a friend you can call any time of the night or day is invaluable. If I can get a list together, I'll post it here.

          Reply
  17. ANgela
    November 9, 2010

    How very, very special!! I have to admit, I worry about how I will divide my time w/ adopting 2 children (we have 4 bio). I know I have great children but I do not want to neglect them or miss out on special time w/ them growing up!!

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 9, 2010

      Angela, I'm glad you are already thinking about this – and I hope you will do a better job than we did! I seem to be quite good at learning from my mistakes.

      Reply
  18. Shari
    November 11, 2010

    I liked your idea..".big kid date" has worked great for our family also…
    But I don't feel very sorry for my big kids…having to adjust & share & help & see the pain & be uncomfortable has been a great benefit for them all…they have learned to have a servants heart…something that doesn't just happen with out hard times…they still have it better than a vast majority of the world. Hard things aren't neccesarily bad things or to be avoided…it can be an occasion to grow in Christ. There is joy in the journey.

    Reply
  19. Julie
    November 20, 2010

    Somehow I missed this post, Lisa. Thank you for being so honest. I couldn't have worded it any better. Our families are so much alike…except you're amazing and have lots more kids. 🙂

    What a great idea. I know we need to give our big kids a voice and remind them that they are treasured. Maybe we'll try this soon.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 20, 2010

      Julie – you are amazing! So true – we need to give them voice. I love thinking of it that way.

      Reply

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