Our three children were very close as they grew up. Not only in age (I had three within five and a half years) but the are also close in heart.
How did that closeness come about?
If you listen long enough, you realize our society pretty much believes kids are going to choose their best friends outside the family circle. As for their relationships with siblings, they're supposed to roll their eyes, argue a lot and get on one another's nerves, right?
I think parental expectations play a huge part in what really happens at home. Not that we were perfect parents (our kids can vouch for that!) but we did try to encourage and expect our kids to be pals - and we tried to guide them in that direction.
As a family, we tried to plan fun activities that pulled everyone together.
When you're playing Checkers by the fire or sledding down hills in your backyard, you're bonding. When you travel together, visit museums as a family and hang out ocean-side together, you get to share some pretty cool experiences. Later, you revisit them in your mind and talk about them together. Having things in common helps develop close friendships.
I think being partners in the home school experience also helped our three kids develop close relationships. They had the same teacher, the same classroom, the same daily schedules and vacation days. (The photo above was at the Gulf of Mexico where the children and Phillip threw bread crumbs to the seagulls).
Back in the class room at home, they worked together on the same subjects at the same time, though each child approached the topic on a different level. When we studied astronomy in science class, for instance, our three children each took on different assignments.
Jason, at 10 years of age, made a time-line of index cards. On each card, he wrote the name of a famous astronomer (Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, etc.) and included their birth and death dates. A couple lines down, he wrote a brief synopsis of their most important contributions to astronomy.
Melissa was our detail-oriented, creative student. She enjoyed drawing charts, writing longer reports and illustrating the folders she filed them in. She also helped design and hang mobiles from the light fixtures.
Kevin, at 7 years of age, loved looking at picture books about astronomy. He was also an encyclopedia kind of guy and loved studying rockets and space ships. Later, he would draw his own models or build them out of Lego bricks.
Their studies would come to mind when we had the privilege of touring the Smithsonian Institute during their teen years. Closer to home, we visited the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center and Marshall Space Flight Center here in Alabama. What a joy to see our children enjoy those experiences while learning and working together as a team. Oh, they had their moments of disagreement, but the majority of the time, they were pals.
All too soon, they grew and went their own ways, one at a time...
Melissa went to Blue Mountain College in Mississippi for four years and majored in music with a minor in business. She then went to Southern in Louisville, Kentucky to get her Master of Music degree. During those years of college, she often connected with her brothers via phone or letters.
Jason graduated high school and enrolled at Patrick Henry College in Virginia that fall. He later spent 4 years as a security guard stateside with the US Marine Corp and was called back for a special 8 month stint in Iraq. We sent lots of mail while he was in the USMC and he and his siblings stayed in touch as often as possible. Presently, he is finishing his college degree in Virginia via online studies.
Kevin went straight out of high school to boot camp and on to radio school at Twenty Nine Palms, CA. He served with the Marines while stationed at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii and spent a few weeks or a month on maneuvers in South Korea. Letters from Mom and Melissa kept him up on the news. It was extremely difficult to get him and Jason together during their military years. (Their leave times intersected only once, I think.)
So many times, through the past few years, our children have all three called home on the same day. It happens that way so much of the time, I am amazed. Phillip and I will go days without hearing from any of them, and then ... three kids and three calls occur within hours (and sometimes minutes) of one another.
Of course there have been times they plan it that way -- on our birthdays or holidays when they are away from home -- but on the ordinary days when they haven't talked with one another ahead of time?
How does that happen?
I don't know, but I do know I love it! Phillip and I will often talk about how we miss their voices and sometimes we laugh about their childhood antics, the funny things they said and just enjoy reminiscing about the good ol' days. We do call them now and then, but not so often that we become pesky parents ...
There's a balance there, I think. Love them, let them go when they're grown, and let them know you are still there for them. Write them letters, send cards now and then and leave messages on their cell phones. Then sit back and wait a bit.
They do have their lives now and adult responsibilities, which we want them to fulfill to the best of their abilities. So we wait. We figure sooner or later, they'll miss our voices or have a question to ask or just want to connect. And when that happens, we are grateful.
We've given them their wings and encouraged them to fly...
... and they did, each in their turn. Now we want them to keep flying, soaring, building those wing muscles that will carry them through life. We try to stand back and admire their individual flights without distracting them. We also want them to fly close to their mates and keep their own nests in good repair.
Ahhhhh, but when three kids call home on the same day? That's a bit like being up in the clouds myself on a grand and glorious day! Three kids and three calls - it's a simple formula, but it sure makes for one happy Momma!