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Vignette 43/52. No is a complete sentence.

It’s Christmas Eve and the five kids put on their running shoes about ten minutes ago. As they headed out door, Chris asked, “Where are you guys going?”

They look at us and say, “We booked the tennis courts for a friendly sibling king or queen of the court. See you later!”

We are in a hotel room in San Jose. They are excited to exchange their Secret Santa Sibling gifts tonight. Parent gifts are for Christmas morning. The kids started this new tradition last year which was our first Christmas all together in Costa Rica.

Here is a screenshot from one of my old blog posts from December 2009:

We still get asked this question a lot.

A big secret is that I say “no” a lot without much explanation. In addition to that, I have solid boundaries complete with a crocodile-infested moat and high castle walls manned by snipers which in the past have appeared to seem aggressive to people on the outside.

After having Q, I have been protective of our family time and of our rhythm. I know what makes me have an abundance of energy and I know what sucks it. It’s a simple formula. We need time for ourselves and we need time together.

We have also had to say NO to events, get-togethers, parties, talks, and all sorts of interesting gatherings to preserve my sanity, my energy, and to work on our relationships. As I set boundaries and priorities with my time, the kids learn how to do it themselves.

One of our biggest priorities was to provide an environment and several opportunities for our kids to become close. We envisioned a time when they would be best friends and be there for each other instead of bickering about who gets to sit by the window in the car.

This meant creating traditions, family activities, resolving conflict slowly and with consideration, and paying attention to each other’s needs. It’s as though each of us is an instrument and we learn how to harmonize together while also celebrating our unique sounds.

We spent the last three days tucked away in a rented house on a hill overlooking the ocean on the other side of Costa Rica. It was a very intentional decision: a Christmas gift for our family to dedicate time together, just the seven of us.

It is the same formula I have used since Q was born – time to tune our own instruments while rediscovering how to play together. This was scheduled time to recharge in a different location and to relax without the obligation of doing anything. I can blog if I want to. I can read. I can lie in the pool. I can do walking lunges. I can eat ice cream for breakfast. I can sit with each child. I can watch them be together. I can appreciate that these moments are what every parent wishes for their family.

As they head out to the tennis courts and Chris and I watch them walk away together – laughing, arms around each other, chatting. We look at each other and we shake our heads thinking the same thing:

We did it.

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