Something that recently occurred to me, while writing an article about getting enough sleep, was that one major reason we like to sleep in later is that we get to bed late, and that’s quite intentional. For some time now, our older girls have tended to congregate in our room for some quality time after the younger ones go down.

Sometimes my husband or I will read aloud a chapter or two from a book we’re reading, or we’ll do some simple stretching exercises together while we talk about our day. At times our conversations are thoughtful and significant, and other times we’re just being silly. It’s become a pleasant little ritual and a great chance to connect with our older girls, hear their thoughts, fears, and dreams, and catch up on their lives.

Just as with our finances, we can create budgets for our time, and much as I would love to have more time for sleep, dedicating this time to spend with our older kids is a priority. Unlike financial budgeting, however, time expenditures are irreversible, because while you can always make more money, you can’t always get more time. It’s a poignant realization that our time with all our kids under one roof is fleeting, and our older ones may spread their wings sooner than we think.

Now, we’re still relatively new to parenting teens (our oldest will turn fifteen this spring). So our journey isn’t completed by a long shot. But so far, I’m really enjoying the deepening relationships we’re building with our soon-to-be adult children. They’re pleasant people to be around, and I truly enjoy their company. I’m just glad to see that the reverse also appears to hold true.

I’ve been trying to determine what factors have been instrumental in this pleasant and gratifying circumstance, and while I couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific—and anyway, results are never guaranteed—I did come up with a nice little list of some things we value that may have contributed to the current closeness we enjoy.

  • We typically eat meals together. Numerous studies have cited this practice as a strong predictor of children’s happiness, health, and well-being;……and while it might be difficult to disentangle causation from correlation, the fact remains that prioritizing family meal times is significant. Sometimes our dinner table can get chaotic and meaningful conversation is nigh impossible, but we soldier through, and along the way our kids learn proper table manners, if nothing else. At other times, the dialogue is positively scintillating. I could write scads of articles just recording the whimsy and witticisms.
  • We cultivate rituals. Our bedtime salon probably stemmed from our practice of walking our children through their bedtime routine and tucking them into bed each night. As our girls grew old enough to manage their own personal ablutions, we encouraged independence by inviting them to “come tuck us in” when they were ready to go to sleep, and gradually their lingering leave-taking evolved from a calculated delay of the inevitable curfew into a genuine social interaction.
  • We give our kids space when they need it. Teens are notorious for prizing their privacy, and we’ve striven to instill respect for personal space in all our children from a young age. Physical space, emotional space, and the inviolability of private property are highly rated commodities in our house.
  • We encourage our children to pray without ceasing. I have tried instituting a “special day” for each child, various birthday traditions, and many other schemes designed to make each child feel special and uniquely valued. Unfortunately, I’m not always great at following through, and many of my grand plans for reforms end up on the compost heap of bright ideas. One thing we do consistently accomplish, however, is to pray both for and with our children. We pray for wisdom and patience in raising them, we model prayer in front of them, and we encourage them in their walk of faith.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad we find ourselves in this season of life, raising (generally) happy, well-adjusted young people who (usually) are glad to talk, even if it means us staying up late for the privilege of listening. Or, to put it another way, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the fact that we’re losing sleep over our kids.

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Photo credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.