How Do We Make One-on-One Time with Our Kids? Consistency.

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iStock_000016745326SmallAt the end of the day, after playing cards around the kitchen table, after shopping for one final summer trip, after sushi for dinner and night swimming, after wringing every drop of goodness from these last free August weeks, my younger daughter crashes in her clothes still reeking from chlorine, while her big sis and I watch an episode of Lost on the couch.

A smiling Facebook vacation photo of a day.

You can’t get enough of them and they never tell the whole story, but you share what you’ve got because these are the moments. Fleeting and beautiful.

These are the days you wish every day could be.

Lost is our show right now, Roxie and me. Just the two of us. Our thing. One episode ends and she says, “Please, one more!”  Every time.  It’s late, but I don’t want to let go of our moment.

“Let me go kiss Lila goodnight,” I say. “Then just one.”

It’s too dark to see Lila sleeping in the bottom bunk. I bend down over the spot where her head should be and before I can kiss, she’s wrapped all around me, two skinny arms warm from the blankets.

“We need a show that’s ours, Mom,” she says.

Lila trails me out of the bedroom for a snack and Roxie’s pissed that our moment is broken. Here we are again. The three of us. One mom and two kids jockeying for attention — and I don’t seem to have enough to go around. Three is the hardest number.

Even when we were a single-house family, two parents and two kids under one roof, squeezing out one-on-one time was work. Multiply the houses and divide the parents and the equation feels almost unsolvable.

How do we make one-on-one time with our kids? Consistency. Because the truth is we, the parents, need it just as much as they, the littles, do.

I’m not breaking any news. You know.

They are totally different people with their own identities. Still, as parents, too many of us mostly only know them as part of a pair or one of few. We lose big. And so do they.

The older they get, the more crucial time alone together becomes to our ever-evolving relationships with them.

It always feels like I should come to this space with the answers. I don’t know answers. Just like you, I’m mostly questions. And I don’t have a map.

But I do have some ideas on how to carve our alone time with our kids:

1. Plan a regular weekly time. If you only have an hour, give an hour. One hour, at least, to be alone with one kid.

2. Put it in the planner. Put it right up there with their soccer and swimming and after school climbing clubs. Right there with your work schedule and the personal extra curricular activities you’ve penciled in. Figure out how it works for your family, which will be different than how it works for mine. The start of the school year when you’re adding new events and forming new routines is the perfect time.

3. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Yes, dinner dates and movies and ice skating are really fun, but all you really need is time. Share a TV show. Take a walk. Let them teach you how to play a video game. Listen to their favorite bands.

4. Give them the lead and be curious. Years ago (like decades, geez I’m old), a dear friend told me how her mom really wanted to see the Grateful Dead with her and/or her brother. Between the two of them, they’d been to 100 plus shows. Their mom didn’t care about the Dead — she wanted to experience them simply to know this thing that two of her kids loved so much.  That’s how you to do it. Let your kids show you who they are by sharing what they love.

5. Put down the phone.

6. Rework your schedule. Making room for a regular time may feel like a chore, but it’s worth the effort. Everyone wins.

This is a gift.

This is a gift.

This is a gift.

And, yes Lila. We do need a show that’s ours.

More from Holly Goodman

How to Connect with Your Older Kids Through Books

Summer is Long, Pace Yourself: How to Survive Your Tween’s Summer Vacation

On Kids’ and Independence: Are We Parenting to Our Kids’ Past Instead of Our Present?

Photo Credit: iStock

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