I know what you’re thinking: Mandatory hot tub party? Sounds like a little R & R for Mom and Pop while the kids are tucked away for the night. Ooohhh-yeahhhh. Sadly, you are wrong, you naughty little thing.
It’s quite different from that altogether. THIS hot tub shindig involves the whole lot. Kiddos and all. And – as stated clearly in the invitation – it is not optional.
My husband and I stumbled onto this by accident. We inherited a new hot tub years back from some friends of ours who were moving. We found that we really enjoyed our time in there with the kids. We could talk about things that mattered, things that probably never would, and anything that fell in between. We began hosting important family meetings in the chlorine-scented pool. It was the perfect spot: Each child trapped into place with no distractions. No hand-held devices to ring or buzz or entice. No forgotten TV playing from another room to be heard during quiet lapses in conversation.
After a time, when the man of the house and I would invite the kids to join us, we noticed that they weren’t always into the idea. They were in the middle of a seriously important talk with their bestie about which necklace they should wear the next day. Or working to get on the next level in a game of Five Nights at Freddy’s. My husband and I were miffed. How could our teen & pre-teen bundles of joy – when we had this tantalizing wonder in the bounds of our very own yard – want to do something other than sink into its depths and sigh with relief.
What to do…
Ah – there it is. MAKE them join us. Sure, why not? We make them do other things. Homework, dishes, flush toilets *clears throat*. Why not make them do something that – in the end - is going to be a happy, relaxing event?
And so it began. Our introduction into something that has blessed our lives and the lives of our four children as well. Even when we have no agenda at all – which is most often the case – topics will arise. A particular problem one has been dealing with at school. An internal struggle another has battled over the last few weeks.
The value of these sessions shows itself time and time again.
Not only do we have both parents present (usually), but we have siblings there too. This means the older kids who identify with the issue can talk about what helps them (instead of say, razz them like they might under different circumstances). There are times I find myself pausing to pray with silent words of gratitude for the moments themselves. The topics that have come up, the way the kids are mentioning issues we might have never known of.
You might say these are things that can come up at the dinner table as well. To that, I say – exactly! Dinnertime is perfect! And not everybody has had the good fortune of inheriting a hot tub. In fact, here are a few others that might work as well:
Mandatory ice cream parties
Mandatory game board parties
Mandatory fire pit parties (If you’re lucky enough to have one of those. S’mores anyone?)
The bottom line is this: We need to spend time with our kids. Mother, father, single parent or guardian, whichever you are – take time to talk to them. To let them talk to you in return. Even if it sounds like random rambling, listen to what they have to say. I’m always surprised at just how often it leads into lessons of great importance. After doing it on a regular basis, I found the kids were even starting to look forward to it. They’ll save up things that they’d like to mention next time, or give updates to an issue they worked out, with the help of big brother’s advice.
After all, time passes by quickly. The tub will contain one less kid, and then even fewer as the years go by. Before we know it, we’ll be having that R&R time with the spouse we longed for back in the day. Of course, that’s only when we don’t have the grandkids around. And hey, perhaps they’ll be interested in some hot tub time as well.
A parent, in simple terms, is this: a struggling being who sometimes – by accident, practice, or the grace of God – reaps moments of near genius. The very few I have gained along the way, I share here, and invite you to do the same in the comments below.