Some good friends of ours have 6 children. In my book that makes them experts in all things parenting. Well, ok …it’s their excellent parenting that makes them experts. The 6 children just makes them awesome, and the 6 children are awesome which adds credibility to the excellent parenting bit.
Anyway, one of the best pieces of advice they’ve offered us is a little tid bit called “Couch Time”. It simply means that when Dad comes home from work, Mum and Dad spend 15 minutes together on the couch having a catch up about the day or whatever. The kids are not allowed to interrupt unless there’s blood on the carpet. The point of it is two fold. Firstly that Mum and Dad get a catch up before the busyness of family dinners and bedtime routines take over, and secondly (and perhaps more importantly) the kids get to see Mum and Dad spending time together (which previously usually happened only after the children were in bed and of course they did not see).
It reminds them that the marriage is the most important relationship in the family….and in fact, that the marriage is the family to which the children have been welcome additions.
It reminds them that Mum and Dad love each other, are important to each other above anything or anyone else and that we’re not going anywhere.
It reminds them that they are not the centre of the universe or in charge of the family (which actually is a scary place to be when you are 3 or 5 or otherwise little and are still learning to be in control of yourself let alone the entire universe!)
It lets the children see some affection and conversation between Mum and Dad, and so models how grown ups appreciate and enjoy one another.
We have only just started to implement this every day, in the last week or so. So far we have noticed that E5 loves to sit near us and looks at us lovingly and approvingly as we chat together. One day she even ran to the microwave timer (which we had set for 15 minutes to help them understand the waiting bit) and reset it for 5 more minutes! B3 didn’t seem to interested either way and occupied himself with toys in his room or playing with his sister. However his bedtime routine later that evening was much smoother. And R1 (who I’d thought would clambour on to us for cuddles etc. ) played quietly with is toys nearby. When he’d approach to get our attention, D would gently push him away and tell him “not now..go and play”. He seemed to get it.
Although we started doing it for the children’s sake, I am really enjoying that little time. I feel like it clicks our family back into order, and I feel like D is honouring me in my proper place as his wife rather than the cook or cleaner or child rounder upper-er that I often have felt like at the busy time of the day when he gets home. I feel more respected and appreciated by my family. We have so enjoyed having a chance to communicate when D gets home from work. Typically everyone is competing for conversation space when he gets home….I want to talk to him, E5 wants to talk to him, B3 wants to wrestle, R1 wants to cuddle, and of course D himself would just like a moment to breathe after a hard day at work! Taking the time for a 15 minute catch up helps us to connect before the children get their time.
Couch time is working for our family!