I have three children ages ten, seven and four. Besides school and an occasional activity, my kids spend a lot of time together. They often have friends over, and most days our front lawn is littered with bikes, helmets, backpacks and shoes. My kids love to invite their friends here and I welcome it. I love having an open door and large quantities of snacks at the ready. On any given day, there are eight or nine children and a dog or two laughing, playing, arguing, creating messes and eating (Why are they always eating?!). These kids are building their own tribe and I am honored to watch it all unfold and to create the backdrop in which it happens.
This all sounds magical…right? It often is. But there is a flip side. All this togetherness can become too much at times; especially as the children are learning to define who they are as individuals. This is where alone dates come in.
Our family’s definition of an alone date is a time where one child is solo with one or both parents, without the chance of another child interrupting or appearing. An alone date can mean something special like an event or trip, but it usually means running errands alone with mom. It can mean that mom picks you up from school instead of taking the bus home. It can mean coming with Dad to take the car to the car wash or to walk the dog. The central theme here is that you have the uninterrupted ears of a parent. In a family that consists of three VERY chatty children, this alone date is invaluable.
As far as timing, an alone date can be a fifteen minutes or an entire day. It can be a special trip to the city or a dinner date, but those “event” alone dates are few and far between. They are valuable. But, I believe, the ordinary alone dates are more valuable. There is no pressure on either end. The child can talk about everything or nothing. They just know they are being heard.
As parents, we tend to wait for the perfect timing to “plan” an alone date. In the waiting, we are missing out on a chance to show our child that we value their individuality. We are all so busy in our lives; jobs, laundry, homework, bills, etc. I get it, trust me, I do. There are one thousand reasons why we put these things off. But it is important. Don’t wait until you can afford a babysitter to care for the other children while you take one out alone. Don’t wait for a milestone or a birthday. Do not wait for feasible timing. Just tag them along alone and squeeze it in.
What if you are always with your kids, making alone an impossibility?
I used to work for an amazing educator in my years as a nursery school teacher. I remember her giving this advice to a harried mom of three small children, one of whom was a newborn. She said to this tired, overwhelmed mom, “Get a kitchen timer. Set it for two minutes or ten minutes. The timing doesn’t matter. Tell your child, ‘I am going to be with YOU right now. Just you. Even if the baby cries, and even if the laundry needs changing, even if my phone rings, I am only going to listen to (or play with) you until the timer tells us our turn is over.’ Follow through.”Those few moments can be so life-changing for you and for your child. When my children were small, I held onto this sage advice.
Carve out these few minutes for each child and see what happens. Let me know! It fills me with joy when you reach out to me in the comments or tag me in your Instagram Stories showing me ways in which these things have helped. I also love when you reach out with questions. It helps me form new blog posts and it helps me to serve other moms better.
As always, thank you for reading and following along on my motherhood journey.