At some point in my life I realized that, although I loved my big family, it was difficult to have quality time with my children as individuals. We tended to do things as a pack, whether it was getting ice cream or going to a museum.
While these events built camaraderie and memories among the kids itÃ‚Â didn’tÃ‚Â help me to get to know them, their hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations as individuals. I knew I wanted to change that. I knew IÃ‚Â didn’tÃ‚Â want kids that grew into teenagers that lived in a world so far from my own that I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even imagine it, let alone enter it.
It was at that point that I made a commitment to take one child per week out for at least an hour. I decided that, as funds allowed, I would use this time to introduce them to new cultures, experiences, and ideas. We would go to lunch, or to the park, or shop and I would leave much of the time in the control of the child.
We call it Mom and [child's name] day at our house. It happens every single week like clockwork unless there are extenuating circumstances, and those donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen often.
At this point in my life, I have five of my eight children at home. Each week I have a glorious block of time to get to know them as they grow and change. It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a time to correct, discipline, or vent – at least for me. The child is free to say what they need to say and we can talk about whatever they want to.
Sometimes we go for fast food and sometimes we go for Thai. If funds are short, we may just get a drink and go to the park to sit and talk. Sometimes, especially with one of my kids in particular, we sit in companionable silence. It really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t about whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s said; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s felt. Even the quiet builds intimacy between us.
It has been interesting to watch as my children grow and turn into teens (I have done the Ã¢â‚¬Å“teenÃ¢â‚¬Â thing six times Ã¢â‚¬â€œ only two more to go!) and still talk to me about anything you can imagine. Dating, sex, drugs, friends, fears, and physical concerns are the topic of conversation as often as favorite movies.
Because they are in the habit of speaking to me, there is no reason for them to pull away. Because I am in the habit of listening, there is no reason to worry that they are wrestling with something I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know about.
We know each other on a level that encourages communication.
If you have small children, now is the time to begin building those strong ties, but even if you have teenagers that are uncommunicative, it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t too late. The key, if there is one, is to listen more than you speak. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use this precious time as anything other than a chance to get to know your child and allow them to know you.
It may take several outings before your child opens up to you and that is O.K.Ã‚Â DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t push and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have an agenda. Keep it relaxed and fun.
I now have three grandchildren in addition to my children. Lately I have been kicking around the idea of having a bit of time with each of them. Perhaps it will be a little different, but I want to give my grandchildren the opportunity to know me as a person. Someday the memories we make will be all that they have and I want them to be good ones.
In this society where families text each other from across the room and communication is often very superficial, it is important to create a real bridge of communication with our children. It helps to ensure that they grow up knowing that they are treasured and accepted for who they are as individuals and that we, their parents, are imperfect humans that will always be in their court.
Discipline is an important part of parenting, but it must be balanced with communication and acceptance. When you spend one on one time with your child, it makes that balance much easier.
How do you get quality time with your kids?
photo credit: WalkingGeek