With a VERY active toddler in the house, lately it feels like ALL my time is devoted mostly to JUST her. My older girls get a piece of me – not the whole me – because no matter what…my eye is always on the lookout for the next disaster my little toddler tornado leaves in her wake.
I know it’s just a stage of life…right? Right?! But I miss those natural moments of one-on-one connection with my older girls. There are no “natural” moments of one on one time anymore – since having three kids, it’s definitely a zone defense game around here! Ha!
But without those alone times with each child, all of our cups go empty. I know they miss these moments alone, and I do, too. I used to have hours to spend with each child every day alone – now, that’s just not realistic (for me in my current season of life). I have three kids, a husband who works all the time, and I’m homeschooling…with no family or babysitter support. It’s ALL ME ALL THE TIME (or that’s how it feels) and that’s okay. It’s our season and it’s working…most of the time! 😉
So, what to do? I have found that I really don’t need HOURS devoted to each child each day. It’s much easier than that. I don’t need to spend a lot of money – and I don’t have to make it like Disneyland. Really, the simpler the better – and what works for us is that these one on one times happen naturally, every day…as just a little part of life. Part of our ritual. Here are a few things that are working for us:
1) Nightly Walk:
A few months ago, I started taking a short, nightly walk by myself to decompress after Mr. M got home from work. It started out as exercise, but let’s be real…it was more about clearing my head. Well, over the weekend, I went outside and noticed the most amazing cloud pattern in the sky. I went inside and got Paprika (age 7) to show her. Once we were on the front porch, I whispered to her: do you want to take a walk with me?
And that’s how our nightly walks were born.
On our walks, she tells me about whatever is on her mind. She talks about fairies – where they live, what they wear to balls, etc. She asks questions about Christmas. We hold hands. We connect.
We’re not gone long – maybe 20 minutes. It doesn’t cost anything.
And, man…it is priceless! I look forward to it as much as she does…and the thing is, I thought that I wanted that alone-time. But really – these peaceful walks with my Paprika remind me of way back when…when it was just me and her all day long. After our walks, we both feel refreshed – and I know that even if I don’t get much one on one time with her during the day…at least we had THIS:
2) Read A Happy News Piece Together:
I know the news is OFTEN, most of the time, filled with really hard stories. But sometimes, there’s a news piece that is so inspirational, you just want to share it. Like yesterday – Diana Nyad completed her historic swim…what an inspiration!
So – when I read that little news piece, I got up out of my seat and grabbed Paprika. I took her into the office, we sat down, and we read it together. Then we pulled up Google Maps and I showed her where Cuba is, and how far Ms. Nyad swam (to Key West)…and next thing you know, we are “walking” around Key West together.
The whole thing took less than ten minutes. Cost: Nada. Value: Priceless!
3) Read Books One on One:
You knew I was going to say this, right? I mean…duh! But when I got real with myself, I realized that I was either reading books to the girls in a group…or they were reading them to each other. Since Ginger is learning to read, I am taking the time to read JUST with her. It doesn’t just happen – Mr. M has to keep Violet occupied so she doesn’t bust in on our little reading session. But it’s worth it.
I let Ginger pick out the books. I sit with JUST her. She holds my hand. She sounds out words. I read, she reads. We go slowly.
And again, it costs nothing. But after just ONE book – I can already see we are more in sync. Bedtime goes easier. There’s less crying. Less clinging. Why? Because she feels secure and knows that I see her and she’s special to me…still.
4) Look At Pictures Together:
One of my favorite, quick ways to connect is to pull up photos on my computer and look at them with just one child. I have thousands of pictures from when each child was younger. I realized that because I’m not printing pictures out much anymore (Eeek!) – the girls never really see them!
So, what I’ve started doing is taking a few minutes and pulling up these pictures from the girls’ early days. I also show them pictures of when their daddy and I were dating. When we got married. When I was pregnant.
And then I tell a little story about our family – where we came from, and what we’ve overcome. I read a piece in the NY Times awhile back that pointed to the telling of family stories as one of the key components of childhood resilience. It’s a simple thing, really…a story. But now I find my girls re-telling these stories to me later and to their friends with pride. So, I know it’s making a difference.
5) Help Them With Their Chores:
I know, I know…chores are supposed to teach the child responsibility. And I still think they can teach that even when we help our child. I don’t want them to think work is about doing things alone. So, in a giving spirit…I help them. One “fun” chore Ginger has is that she feeds the cat every night. We have an outdoor kitty that we found on the streets of Hollywood 10 years ago (her name is Megatron). It’s Ginger’s job to feed Megatron, right before bedtime. When all the other girls are in bed, Ginger and I go and feed the cat. We sit and watch her eat – we talk about how fluffy she is, who the cat’s friends are (seriously), and what adventures she’s been on that day.
What started out as a little chore has become a bright bit of “work” in our day together. Time for just me and Ginger to connect. And if I made a point that it was her responsibility, we would miss this moment together on a nightly basis.
So – there you go. It’s not much, but it’s making a world of difference to our little family. None of this costs a penny, but the rewards have been priceless. And I have realized, these moments of connection mean as much to me as they do to my kids…they’re things I know we will all remember for always.