We had a tough week with our kids. There was the usual arguing and fighting plus and extra dose of sass from my eight year old. I’ve honestly hit my wits end with what to do about her behavior in particular. So I finally decided to take the advice that I’ve read so often and rarely manage to do. I leaned in.
When weekend comes, hubby and I are usually quite burned out. But I felt like we need to begin the discipline of regularly scheduled time with our kids, specifically one on one time. Usually when the toddler naps on weekends is ideal time for me to recharge because the kids will hang out with Daddy. But with all these recent conflicts between me and my kids I realized they needed time with just me, where my focus is not split between them and the house, or the school work or even each other.
To say this was difficult was an understatement. Just saying that makes me sound like a pretty awful mother. But what I really am is a selfish, human being who doesn’t like giving up her comforts. In these case, that comfort is my leisure time. I already spend nearly twenty four hours a day, seven days a week with my kiddos. While I love them dearly, there are definitely days when I want to run screaming as soon as Rob comes through the door. But beneath the rants and insults that lately come out of my daughter’s mouth, I heard a continuing theme.
“Mommy, why don’t you spend more time with me?”
She rarely used those words precisely, but it was strongly implied. I also hear that when my five year old is trying to stand on my lap while I pay bills or write a blog post. He says it in his own language of physical touch, but I still get the message. I knew they both needed me, and their father to give them our undivided attention.
So we did. On Saturday and Sunday, each kid got a parent for about two hours. I had my son first. We assembled puzzles and built with Legos. We talked a little bit. (They were geography puzzles and as a good home school mom I wasn’t going to let an educational opportunity go to waste). But mostly we just sat near each other and played side by side. Sunday afternoon I had planned to knit and do yoga with my daughter. The knitting got a slow start because I had to track down the proper size needles and yarn to teach her. While she was excited at first, she quickly became frustrated and we ended up cutting our time short and skipping the yoga routine because she said she wanted to do go build Legos with her dad and brother.
I wish I could tell you that this was some kind of miracle cure and I saw a measurable change in their behavior. Maybe it yet will be. I didn’t expect to see results after just one time. (Which is good because the kids were just as snarky as usual despite the quality time). What I’m hoping to build is consistency. We have always spent time with our kids, but it’s usually hit or miss, especially one on one. We have family movie nights and my husband is introducing them to his love of video games. But I wanted to specifically focus on activities that would leave room for discussion. My kids are ALWAYS talking but I don’t usually fully tune in to what they are saying. This was a chance to do that.
I learned a few things about my kids would this weekend. They enjoy being challenged, but not too much. It’s difficult to walk the line between boredom and frustration. If something is too difficult, they both are quick to give up and decide they aren’t capable. I was glad I noticed this trend, and now I need to figure out how to help them learn to work hard, even if something doesn’t come naturally or easily.
I also realized quite a bit about myself. I need to spend this kind of time with my kids. Because when it’s too rare, too much rides on it. But the more time we invest in our relationship, the less pressure there is on each individual activity. Every time won’t be successful and that’s Ok, as long as I keep trying. I was also reminded, yet again, that parenting is very much about changing me. I am still a very selfish person. I need to learn how to serve my family with joy, rather than out of simple obligation. The discipline of spending regular one on one time with my children is part of that.