I was reminded of something very important tonight. I was reminded of how important it is that we spend quality one on one time with our children whether they are an only child or have ten identical twins.
The day started out rough. I got three hours of sleep last night, my kids obviously didn't sleep enough either because they were fighting over little things like who got to use the red controller while playing Super Mario. Sometimes you just have to save your breath for a bigger battle and let them sort out their issues. Then there's the cats! They managed to claw a hole in my new Pillow top mattress and one puked all over my floor! Then last but definitely not least there was the dreaded fat day that all of us women endure every once in a while. I was definitely having one of those.
Later this afternoon, I was sitting in the doctor's office at my daughters eye appointment when my son mentioned that he would like to stay the night with his father. Naturally I wondered why. Was I a bad and inattentive mother today? I asked him why and he told me in his simple straight forward kid manner "I don't know. I just do". Okay, fair enough. Then I turned to my daughter and asked her if she wanted to stay with her father and she said that she'd rather stay with me so we could make bracelets together. Well the fact that she wanted to stay with me boosted my confidence slightly and a light bulb instantly went off in my head! My voice suddenly went from scratchy, tired and annoyed to my high pitched excited mommy voice as I explained to the kids that Ronnie was going to stay with his dad and have a boys night and Cailyn was going to have a girls night with me. Her little face lit up and she started rattling off a very long list of everything our night would include from making pretty numbered beaded bracelets to painting the cats nails (boy cat included...poor thing).
My ex was hesitant about only taking one kid at first but I immediately closed any window of opportunity for refusal. It had been forever since the kids had had any one on one time with their father and I and after seeing how excited my daughter was to have me to herself, there was no going back. My son was also quite thrilled about having some father son time. So we dropped my son off at his dad's house and Cailyn and I went back to start our little party. She led me around hand in hand as we made hot tea and decorated sandwich baggies and filled them with animal crackers. We curled up on the couch and watched The Little Mermaid (her choice) while drinking our tea and eating our animal crackers. I kept catching her glancing over and smiling at me out of the corner of my eye. It was the most naturally sincere look of happiness I had seen on her face in some time. I looked down at her wide puppy dog eyes and said "I am so happy that you wanted to stay with me tonight. I love you". She giggled and held my hand. She was so genuinely happy and carefree. Not like how she is around her brother. I realized that when it's both the kids and I that sometimes they feel like they have to compete for my attention and they act less than favorably. It's not that I ignore one or the other. I try hard to give them both equal attention but being a single mother, you're pulled in so many directions all the time. It's relentless! I mean you have to keep both kids in check which requires playing mediator, authoritarian, psychologist, psychic and many more roles! Plus there's the millions of chores to be done for the day and working a full time job! God forbid anyone or anything throws a wrench in your schedule! Our kids want and need our approval, admiration and our attention. It means so much to them and the fact that I wanted to spend time with just Cailyn tonight made her feel like I wanted to be with her not because I had to to fulfill my duty as her mother but because I liked having her with me. She felt special because her mommy WANTED to spend time with her.
I think sometimes we get so busy taking care of our kids that we forget to play with our kids. We naturally think that if we get them fed, get them to school on time, front money for them to participate in sports and buy them lots of presents and throw big parties on their birthdays that we are being a good mom. The truth is is that while being a good mom does require that you feed your kids and get them to school, it doesn't require a lot of money or fancy parties. They want our time and attention. They want to feel special to and wanted by us. We are the most important people in their tiny world and hopefully that never changes. As I think back on my child hood, some of the most vivid and memorable moments were of my mom taking time out to act like a kid with me. My mother worked harder than anyone I've ever known and she didn't have much free time or energy for that matter but regardless of how tired and beat down she was, she found time to stop and play Barbie with me or paint pictures with me. When I was a little older, she even found time to dance to New Kids on the Block with me! My daughter reminded me tonight just how precious those memories are to me. Now it's my turn to make those memories for my children. I want them to think back one day and remember how much I wanted to be with them. Actually, I want them to always feel this way. I want them to feel wanted by me, their father, their future spouse and I want them to pass this on to their future children. It's important that we all feel not only needed but wanted as well by those we love. It's amazing what we can learn from a child.
So if you have an only child, take a day, tell them that it's their special day to spend time with you and do whatever they want. Let them choose the activities for the day even if it's as silly as worm hunting in the back yard. They will feel so special if you give them that control. If you have more than one child, get a sitter or arrange a time with the child's other parent and spend some one on one time with your child. You'll realize just as I did how much it means to your child that you took time out of your hectic schedule just to be with them.
As I write this, I'm smiling thinking about how I get to wake up in the morning and have breakfast just my daughter and I. I won't take it for granted. She's already chosen pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream and then it's on to making more bracelets!
Need some ideas for some one on one time with your kids? Well, here are a few of my suggestions!
girl- Have a tea party and dress up like princesses. If you're willing to, let her do your hair and makeup as well as her own! Yeah, sure it'll be a mess but I bet you'd get some good laughs out of it!
either-Take them out for a quick dinner and then go see the movie of their choice and let them hold the popcorn. Little things like being in charge of holding the popcorn makes them feel like a big kid!
boy- Is your son obsessed with playing Super Mario? Have a game and pizza night! Order pizza of his choice in and play his favorite games. Make him feel special by telling him you need him to explain how to play.
either- Okay this one is my favorite one to do, although I've usually done it while having both kids. Pajama party! Put your favorite pajamas on, make breakfast food for dinner, have a pillow fight and then finish the night by pulling out your sleeping bags and camping out on the living room floor with movies.
Even if you just find a few minutes out of the day to pull your child aside and sing a song with them or surprise them with a big hug and "I love you" when they aren't expecting it, it'll meant the world to them and it'll warm your heart.
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