If you have multiple children, it seems like we rarely naturally find one-on-one time as parent and child to make those special memories. If both parents work, and you have two or more kids, it seems like it is a zone defense where one parent is dealing with all the kids in bursts, or else both parents are managing the brood as a team. Activities are family activities where all are involved, since it is an efficient use of time and mom and dad can spend valuable time with everyone. However, I am a strong proponent of slicing out time to spend with each kid, either showering attention as both parents (which is fine, but this sometimes allows the parent closest to the child to dominate attention or affection), or better yet, breaking free with each child just you and them.
In our house, we have some annual traditions where we formally make this happen. I’ve written before about “Guys’ Weekend” with my son where we get to spend a lot of time without his mom and sister learning about life. That then correlates with Holly and Birdsnest girls’ weekend where they can spend some time together.
Tonight will be the second year I’ll be going to the Dad-Daughter Dance held at our highschool. We both get dressed to the nines, have dinner together, then head to the event – which is like a sock-hop with DJ, ice cream sundaes, and just hanging out and having fun. She has the biggest smile on her face just being able to get time alone with her dad and soaks in the attention like a sponge.
But you don’t have to be so formal. We’ve done mini-kid one-on-one dates by peeling off one parent and one child and going to a movie, or coffee shop, or ice cream parlor. You can break one kid out of school for a few hours in the afternoon and play hooky before the other ones are done, or simply take him out to lunch at Subway or something. You can let one child stay up late, or do a campout in the living room, or somehow break the normal routine and make it special. You should make it official though, talk about it ahead of time and mark it on the calendar. Let them anticipate and look forward to the event, which is half the fun. Get dressed up, and don’t be afraid to be silly. My son likes to talk with an english accent and take on the persona of made up character Loyloy, so we’ve snuck away and have grabbed an ice cream cone talking in fake accents the whole time. He thinks it’s hilarious.
One on one time you get to delve into topics maybe your child won’t share with you in front of your spouse or siblings. While you already know they are individuals, you get to interact with them a little more in this manner, instead of the pack mentality that sometimes occurs with siblings that alters behavior. You get to have UNINTERRUPTED time to talk or interact without having to spin off to deal with other children.
I have a few friends with five kids, and even they do some version of this. Another friend used to go on backpacking trips (short weekend ones, and week long ones) with each of his kids.
With our time so stretched in typical families, it is easy to simply swim as a school of fish. Make a concerted effort from time to time to break free and make sure both parents get to build some special memories with each of your kids. There’s a window here that we have to hit before they are too cool to hang out or don’t want to spend this time with us. Take advantage before it closes. Happy Friday!