One kid is fine, two’s still somewhat manageable, three… well, you’re clearly outnumbered and they know it, and by four it might as well be four hundred because you’re basically that dude at the circus juggling flaming chainsaws. You’re not making it out unscathed…
You try to keep them all fed and clean and cavity free, but beyond that it takes intentionality. And I know it might sound crazy to say that your kids need more time with you, especially if you’re a SAHM and feel like all you do is spend every. waking. minute (and most of your sleeping ones too) drowning in a sea of your spawns. However, never underestimate the power of one-on-one time… for both of you. It can be a real life saver.
I have a three (almost four) year old son, seven and nine year old girls in the middle, and then another boy who just turned 15. Like most parents soon discover just because you all share the same DNA, different personalities and likes abound. It can be hard work deciding how to carve out custom time with each.
One-on-one time can come easy with your favorite. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know “technically” we’re not supposed to have a favorite, but c’mon who are we really kidding? My theory is that as long as you rotate favorites every few days, it’s allowed.
Right now my favorite is Max. He’s the baby, so he’s a piece of cake. Since the others are in school all day, he gets nothing but one-on-one time with me. Still, it’s easy to let true quality time slip by in between chores, errands, and the non-profit work I do from home. So every morning after the crew’s carted off, he I sit on the couch and cuddle for a bit (A.K.A. wrestle until he inadvertently punches me in the face and we have to stop). Then we go over all his “facts.”
“What’s your name?” “Max De La Rosa”
“How old are you?” “18.”
“No.” “Fine… I’m free.”
“Where do you live?” “Dalwis, Texas.”
“What are your parent’s names…”
And so on and so forth. We work on his phone number, our street address, what number to dial in case of emergency… ya know, all that good life saving info.
Basically we do this ritual each morning because my husband likes to make me watch murder shows each night. You might not immediately see the connection between these two things, but let me explain…
Since my husband is asleep within the first 2 minutes, I have to stay up and watch the whole stinkin’ episode by myself to see if the slain woman’s poor toddler ever made his way out of the murder woods and flagged down a motorist on the nearby 6-lane highway to save his precious little baby life. Oy vey. And probably every fourth episode is something along these lines: A little kid goes to pet a strangers puppy, is thrown in the back of his van, and twenty years later shows up in a Walmart parking lot with a vague recollection of what might be an address but since they’re not even sure what their real name is (because they’ve just been called “Stump” for the last two decades by some mad man) they don’t know how to reconnect with their actual family… or a 4-year-old who has to call 911 from under her parents bed as an intruder strangles her mother… or a 10-year-old who ticks off his step dad then mysteriously “falls” off a cruise ship and is picked up by Somali pirates who speak no English yet he still has to try to convince them to take him back home, where ever that it…
Okay, I might’ve made up that last one, but you know if you saw the first 30 seconds of that episode you’d totally be hooked too, even if your husband was already conked out. So now you know my struggle. Murder shows make you a paranoid parent. But whatev, quality time is quality time. Don’t judge my love language… which is evidently very similar to Liam Neesons in all 83 ‘Taken’ movies. It might save mah bay-bays life someday.
Moving on… My oldest son, Enoch, was a bit harder to start a “quality time tradition” with considering he’s 15 and a boy. The way I saw it, I had two options:
1.) Learn to play Xbox, or
2.) Find some other screen related thing we could do together
We started out watching Sherlock each night (in between the little sibs bedtime and that ever so romantic murder hour with my hubs) and have now progressed to “Doctor Who.” I never in a million years thought I’d be a Whovian, but believe it or not, it’s a pretty great show. Plus, (and perhaps most importantly) while there are a few super innocent kissy scenes, it’s pretty much totally void of sexual content, which is damn near impossible to find in a TV series these days but oh so important when it comes to avoiding some way awk TV time with your teen.
Since that worked so well with her big bro, Eddie and I decided that movie nights would be our “thing” too. But not just any movies, classic movies!
Eddie’s 7 and adorable, and hilarious and basically mini-me. (Yes, upon re-reading that sentence I do see how narcissistic it sounded, but #realtalk. I *am* hilarious and adorable, y’all. Sorry not sorry.)
However, it’s a two edged sword. She’s like me to a fault sometimes as well, which translates to: she needs a lot of undivided attention. Like, a lot. And basically her sibs do to her what food after midnight does to Gizmo. So when she becomes a slobbering little demon wreaking havoc on our house and I need to turn her back into Mommy’s cute little mogwai, I kick everyone out and we have a classic movie night.
I’ve always loved old movies. My mom introduced me to Fred Astaire when I was still in diapers and it was love at first sight. And I’m so glad I got miss Eddie hooked on them early too. Her nine year old sister refuses to get over the fact that “they all just happen to know the words and dances to each song even though they’ve never met before and didn’t practice at all… gimme a break.” In that sense, it kinda worked out though, because picking a one-on-one tradition that all the other kids hate = no crashers!
(Plus, doing the Eddie Kazu Movie Review with my sweet girl has been a blast! https://www.facebook.com/Eddie-Kazu-Movie-Reviews-933512046701202/)
The cynical 9-year-old daughter I mentioned above is my brilliant daughter Eiffel. She was by far the toughest to be intentional with though. She’s just so independent and in her case, I had to be the one to demand the special time. She’d rather be doing a dozen other things than hanging out with her dorky old mom, so I knew I was going to have to pull out all the stops and offer some pretty enticing outings to get her on board. From that, “Sundays with Eiffel” was born. Sometimes it’s dinner out at our favorite taco spot, other times it’s just hot chocolate and girl gabbin’ at Starbucks.
She loves to talk, and one of her coolest attributes (other moms will get this) is that she rarely cares if I’m listening. She’s not needy at all. The only need she has is to get those 10,000 words her brain allots her a day, out of her mouth. But not actively listening to her wonderful stories also makes me feel pretty crappy, whether she minds or not.
One-on-one time with her is great because it allows me to offer her my full undivided attention and teach her the difference between active listening and that thing where she just runs down a list of all the juiciest fourth grade gossip while I’m cooking dinner, cleaning dishes, and trying to pull her little brother down from the chandelier. Plus, I’ve found that when she knows I’m truly listening she shares much more of her heart and less of the gossip. It’s pretty cool. I knew it was a success last week when she asked if we could take the long way home because she wanted to spend more time with me.
So that’s what I do with my (not so) littles (anymore). What are some special memories and traditions you have creating with your kiddos? Eventually I’m gonna have to move beyond murder paranoia prep with my littlest and I’d love some new ideas for sweet weekly memories to create with him! Ha!0