I should start with the truth. Lately quality time in our home has been a bit sparse. It is not for lack of desire or trying which makes it that much harder of a pill to swallow. My husband’s work schedule takes him away from home Friday through Monday and when he is home we add two more kiddos to the mix. That being said, I am confident that every single person reading this right now has real and valid reasons for why it is difficult to spend quality time with the ones we love. Especially in today’s society where everything seems to be fast and furious. Slowing down to play trains or build legos isn’t exactly easy.
This has been an ongoing discussion with me and my husband. With our challenges as a blended family we are struggling to create not only time and space for all of us together, but also one on one time for each child. Not to mention our relationship with each other, which is, after all where it all began.
I have seen a definite pattern of behavior in all of our children when they are feeling neglected. I hate getting to that point where they are so hungry for attention that they feel the need to act out. But it happens. Of course they all have unique personalities and ways of expressing their feelings. The trick is learning the different cues that each kid inevitably displays.
So I ask myself, what can I personally do about this dilemma? I most certainly can’t add hours to the day, which I have thought about on more than one occasion. Or perhaps I can clone one, maybe even two more of me to get the laundry done and cook dinner while I play with the kids.
Clearly those ideas are just in my dreams. But in general I can say that I am trying to take ownership of my choices. This includes being proactive and not allowing myself to feel like a victim of circumstance. Life gets hard. Life gets messy. But I am coming to understand that I always have control over how I act in any given situation. When it comes to our family, I am determined to carve out time and make it work. Simple as that.
A few ways that I am going about creating that quality time are fairly straight forward in theory, but not always easily executed on a daily basis. Here they are:
1. Limit Phone Time (or any screen for that matter). This is a big one for me, and I suspect most of you are in the same boat. Seriously, I pretty much have my phone with me at all times, and if for some reason I don’t, I feel a bit naked. I have seen my kids’ faces when they are trying to tell me something and they look up to find my eyes glued to the screen. Ugh. Not a good feeling. So I am trying to be more aware and purposeful about putting down my phone to go outside, or whatever the case may be. In the long run it is truly freeing to be less attached to devices and more present for real life.
2. Play with your kids. I have had this discussion a few times with other moms. Playing with your kids can be a mixed bag. If it’s not something we are particularly intrigued by (Star Wars anyone?) it can be hard to engage. However, the goal is to play on their terms. Listen to them. It’s not as affective when Im “in the mood” and have a free minute but they are not even asking. It’s those moments where they ask if you want to play balloon volleyball for the 10th time and you are half way through folding laundry. Thats commitment.
3. One on One Dates. I love this concept. We always hear about date nights with our spouse, and believe me that is super important! Why not have a date with your kiddo? I have a few friends who do this and I always liked the idea. Recently, I had an opportunity to spend some quality one on one time with my son Josh. He lit up at the idea of it being just me and him, and we had a blast. It doesn’t have to be anything major or time consuming. A simple trip to the library or a walk to the park will do the trick. It can be things we do anyway, but the key is to be one on one and intentional about the valuable time you do have together. Asking questions and staying engaged will make it special.
When I boil it down to the point, the goal is to enjoy the family you are creating. It is way too easy to get distracted by the craziness of day to day life. Why are we in this situation in the first place? We fell in love. We wanted to expand that love, so we had children. For me, I want to remember the why as much as possible and what it took to get here.