Hi Christine, It sounds like you are doing a trojan job! The summer break can be a long haul! And it sounds like you have at least one, if not several, emotional projects going on in your household. I’m not surprised you are feeling exhausted.
It’s hard to have a full picture from what you have said here of why your boy needs you to stay so close (quite aside from whatever challenges your daughter is up against) – but that sounds incredibly taxing.
Any family dynamic is complex, and my initial recommendation is that you might find it useful to organise a one-on-one consultation with one of our Instructors. This will help you get a map of the territory, explore the dynamic in detail, and develop a plan of attack. Emotional projects – recurring, persistent points of difficulty in your relationship with your child, or their relationship with the world, take time, resource, and the flexible use of the listening tools in order to resolve. You’ll find that much easier to sustain with support and guidance. https://shop.handinhandparenting.org/collections/one-on-ones
Another option would be to consider taking the upcoming Parent Intensive – nine weeks of calls with a small group of other parents led by an experienced Instructor, and a one-on-one consultation. Both Kathy Gordon and I have Call Groups starting in September for the next Parent Intensive. http://bit.ly/HiH-Parent-Intensive-8
Getting support to work out how you can get at least a short amount of one-on-one time with each of the children will be a key component of moving toward having things more manageable, but when we are overwhelmed that can just feel impossible. It’s like – put your own oxygen mask on first! Do get help – it’s amazing how the warm attention of one person on you as you work through the difficulty can free up your problem solving capacity.
Special Time when there is more than one child around is a tall order – they can smell the attention, and it is really hard for them not to try to syphon some off for themselves. Once their “cup of connection” is a bit fuller, they may be able to let their brother or sister get a fix of you while they wait, but I wouldn’t guarantee it! It also changes a bit as your chidren get older – you’ll find some of my thoughts about that here: https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/staying-close-older-kids-special-time-can-work-pre-teens-older-children/
It sounds like you did a good job of trying to find something they could all engage with and laugh about – the grumpy face – but you are juggling needs that are heading in different directions! I’m not sure that you could have done much different – other than keep working to try to find something that they all could join in – games that get kids to gang up on adults can be helpful – there’s something deeply empowering for them to work together to outwit you. And holding the space for 10-15 minutes as you did sounds like a victory to me: maybe don’t try to do anything with them all together for more than that? Work out how long you can play before it starts to go pear-shaped, and keep it within that time.
Here are some articles on working with more than one child: some gentle words from Patty – the gist of which is “hang in there, stay in contact, even if you are too triggered to do more..” In a way, those of us with more than one child are forced to face the reality that many of us with only one child can imagine we avoid: parenting is not a perfect art! https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/tantrums-two-manage-one-upset-child/ and here’s another https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/connecting-chaos-multiple-children-big-feelings/
Personally I’m a great fan of giving up all together when things get too complicated – literally. It’s hard to do when we start to get snippy, but lying down with your legs in the air like a bug on it’s back has an amazing effect on a dynamic that is heading off-track. It’s as if when we stop trying to control everything (or anything), the young people can find their way back to us, and it leaves them some room to work out what to do next. Patty talks about it in this article, which might also remind you of just how difficult a job you have – it’s not possible, under the circumstances, to have it go well, always. Here’s Patty with wise words on what is possible, and impossible in parenting: “At times like these, if we “give up” for 10 or 15 minutes, and lie down on the floor, it provides enough of a contrast to the previous tense situation that we and our children can take a fresh start with each other…Sometimes, our children come around and decide they want to be close. They sit on our tummies, or crawl under our legs, or start jumping over us for fun. Having given up the effort to be in control, we can begin to pay attention to how things are, rather than the way we want them to be. Without the effort to stay in control, it’s often more possible to make workable decisions, and to like the children we have again.” https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/control-possible-impossible-parenting/
Good luck! Glad you are here! If you can’t organise “boots on the ground”, at least here you have us – we can be your “boots on the emotional landscape” – all pulling each other up by the bootstraps! Let us know how you go!