Any parent of three or more kids will understand the phrase, “If only I had the time…”
Lately, one of the things that I think is becoming more and more important for me is trying to carve out some special one on one time with each child. Tricky yes, impossible no.
Each day I try to attentively listen to each child share a story (or two or three if you have chatty kids like mine) during snack time. It’s the single time every day that I refuse to look at the dishes in the sink, pour myself a mug of tea and let the kids rattle on. Then it’s onto juggling three different sets of homework and each kid gets another set amount of one on one time and of course, bedtime is never complete without a hug for each child and special “I love you.” Not bad for the most part during regular busy days.
But I miss having those longer stretches of time with each child because it’s in those times that I can really listen, or talk to them or just be with them.
For the last couple of years I have struggled to find time. As most people do, I set my expectations way too high.
“Once a month!” I declared to Mr. L. I want an afternoon one a month to spend with each kid doing something one on one.
Well, that didn’t work. Life got in the way and then mom guilt would enter and I would try to make up for something that the kids didn’t even realize they were lacking. Why? Because in truth, they were too young. They were content with the time I could give them and liked us doing stuff all together. But then, six months ago it started. First with Elizabeth.
“Mom, I want to do something with you. Just the two of us.”
“I know honey, me too. We just have to find a time.”
That was easier said than done. Then Audrey chimed in a few weeks later.
“Mom, can the two of us just go for a walk?”
“Umm..sure sweetie. But right now I have to take the dog and everyone else because they can’t stay by themselves.”
Than Jacob started, “Mommmmyyy!! My mommmmyyy!!!” His little voice would scream and he would then close his door so we could cuddle without anyone interrupting.
So along with wanting to find time alone with each child, they were now asking for it as well. Double whammy of mom guilt and feeling overwhelmed made me want to go and hide under my sheets.
With the once a month plan out the window, I focused on trying to find time when I could. Running to the grocery store? Take one of them along and buy them a treat. Hair in desperate need of a long overdue appointment? Take one of the girls and get their hair done at the same time. I was trying to find any opportunity to take one along. But soon enough, it became a competition of who was going when and me trying to remember who got to go with me last time. Foiled again. (No pun intended.)
What choices are left?
Seasonally? Try to do something special with each child when the seasons change? May work and may not. The last thing I wanted to do was promise them something and not follow through.
Birthdays? Great if it works but may not as well.
I still don’t have the answer but one thing I do know, I will keep trying to figure it out. It may not be perfect, but I can only try my best.
The benefit of one on one time is very clear to me after this past weekend. For my daughter’s birthday she asked to go to Toronto, just her and I overnight. Having attempted to do this last summer, she bided her time and requested it when she knew that for a birthday gift, I would put everything else aside which I did booking a room and presenting her with a date on her birthday.
This past weekend, we drove together into the city. For the first time in a long time, I hung out with my nine-year old. We visited an aquarium, the CN Tower, bought very bad for us snacks to watch a movie in a big king size bed and had an enjoyable dinner out together. Long overdue but worth the wait. I remembered what a curious kid she is but noticed the overly chatty child was turning into a girl who asked thoughtful questions. The child that would crawl all over me to cuddle had morphed into a kid who liked her space when she slept although I still got a tight hug before drifting off. (Thank goodness!) I learned she really is a light sleeper, waking up at the slightest noise to find out what’s going on. Most importantly and with a weepy heart I learned that she was no longer a little kid and I asked myself, when did that happen?
Having the opportunity to do this with her made me even more determined to ensure I make time for one on one with each child, whenever that is. I want to remember these moments. They may not be as frequent as I, or they would like, but when they do happen, it’s a pretty special experience.