Saturday, April 11, 2015

One-on-One Time with Children

On Friday evening, my big eight-year-old son took me on a dinner date. It was at Daddy's gentle suggestion, but John did all the nervous asking and hosting of the outing. He took me to Olive Garden, to which the thrifty boy had a gift certificate, and he paid for the remainder with his debit card, which I let him carry in his pocket for this event. (Did you know when you open a child's bank account nowadays, instead of receiving the little paper tracking books we received as children, the child receives a debit card? Makes sense in this modern world.)

After a number of silly photos . . . 

Always a jokester

. . . we got one handsome picture.

But still a handsome guy

I don't go on many errands so I don't get those opportunities for taking one child along for one-on-one time. I find it is a real challenge for Mama to leave Home Base, where I am simultaneously supervising one child practicing violin, cooking a meal, pausing to change a diaper, planning our meals for the week on the white board, and cleaning the kitchen. (And forget the whole first year of having a baby when I'm nursing my babies-who-don't-use-pacifiers every half an hour.) A husband just can't step into those shoes, so I find it so much easier to ask him to dash to Trader Joe's for these six items: he does that and has many opportunities to take along one child for special time. It's gotten so that he does most of our errands out of the home.

I hardly knew what to do with myself having just one child in my presence--and an older child with whom it is pleasant to interact! When I got to go two hours without making one behavioral correction, it left me reflecting how my voice is generally spewing corrections (which are getting more and more sharp and nasty) daily from waking till bedtime. Does a minute go by without my correcting somebody's behavior? Not too often. And that just plain isn't cheerful to be around! Giving and receiving so many corrections makes all of us crabby.

But I can't just remain silent about needed corrections times four kids--so what's a Mama to do? I don't know the answer. I do know that regular doses of one-on-one time with each child would seriously build camaraderie between us and that might spill over to more goodwill on the home front.

What do you do, Reader, to get one-on-one time within a large family? Especially one in which there are as yet no built-in babysitters (teenagers) and there are many small children who still need much civilizing?

(N.B. I'm 25 weeks' along now. Three people independently have already commented, "You must be due any day now!" I've tried to spare their dignity and reply cheerfully, "Oh, I have a while to go yet." But no, they each persisted in their folly: "Really?! When are you due?" "Let's see . . . about fifteen weeks from now." And then the poor blokes have nothing to say. I will try not to spend much time crying over my beach ball self and instead consider myself an ambassador for teaching through those awkward moments the good manners that one simply doesn't comment on a pregnant lady's appearance, no matter how huge, unless it is to bathe her in much needed comforting compliments about how lovely that color looks on her or her hair sets off her face.)


  1. That is so sweet! We do dates, too...I know a family that found it easier to do stay at home, Tom, have a date with mom and/or dad the first Tuesday of the get to stay up a half hour or hour later, play a game, eat favorite snack, have my/our undivided attention, etc... We haven't been too great with trying either method consistently and we don't run many errands either.....but it's always on my mind and I try to schedule dates at least every couple of's always meant a lot to the kids and you see your children in a different light....I know there were some dates where a baby needed to come, too, and older child didn't mind....

  2. I take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Most nights I go alone but every so often I bring along whoever I sense is in need of the one on one time. Usually a female!

  3. Hiking, shopping (as necessary, I prefer to shop alone because it's speedier and I don't have any spare time... I've started shopping after I work out in the very early mornings). We do things of limited appeal with the kids that like that activity.

  4. I guess in our house, an outing with just my two daughters minus the five brothers is viewed as one on one time. Doctor appointments, too. I have one kiddo who is followed for nonscary medical appointments and I take that child out after them one on one.

  5. Well, my oldest and second oldest are 10 and 8, so while I cannot claim them as babysitters just yet, they are very good "mother's helpers." When I cannot get out of the house with any given child for some alone time I often send the others to play (with one older child supervising the baby) and invite that kiddo to cook dinner with me (or to have a small snack and keep me company while I cook dinner). Other things I do are take the eligible children to Confession in the evening. Now, while I ebf my babies, I also insist that their daddy be able to watch them (even if that means they cry a bit in arms) for up to an hour at a time - even in the earliest days. That's enough time for a couple of us to run to Rita's for water ice or even McDonalds for a cheepie ice cream sundae. I certainly have never wanted my babies to be distressed, but in a big family life must go on. By the time they are 6 months or so and can eat a little mushed banana or something, I will leave them for 2 hours (since even if they are STARVING Daddy can give them something to eat). Also, I found that having an older child with a strong bond to baby (which they develop by helping throughout the day) I have been able to leave even an under one baby with a trusted babysitter (not family) since their favorite big kids are there if they need lovies.

  6. How lovely that you got one on one time with John. We usually do errand dates or I will let Gabriela stay up later than the others. I'm not too great about carving out time unfortunately. I'm sorry about the pregnancy comments; its about the same time I start getting the "any day now" comments as well.

  7. Amen to your closing comment! I still remember the lady in the grocery store almost three years ago! who didn't believe I was still 2months from my due date and felt the need to inform me, "you're going to be HUGE!" :-/

  8. I was just thinking how lovely you looked in your pictures. (And I really don't think you look close to full-term...but maybe that's because I was very recently there). For one-on-one time...and this is only when Daddy isn't traveling...but I put the baby down for bed right after dinner, then later on he does bedtime with one child, while I have one-on-one time with the other. We read stories, bake, or just talk and cuddle. Then they flip-flop the next night. Of course, we've only got three, so it's easier to juggle.