One-on-one time

IMG_2953One of my Secrets of Happier Parenting, discovered over years of refereeing sibling arguments, is that being with one kid, solo, is an entirely different experience than being with n children, where n>1. I am more relaxed. The kids are more pleasant. They do play well at times, which is a joy to watch, but there is more of a sustained satisfactory experience in one-on-one time.

Today was one of those rare days where I managed to get time with all four. Three were nice. One less so. The 5-year-old had the day off from school, so I took her out to lunch at what we call "the train diner" (Ruby's). She was so excited about her mac and cheese. Then we went to CVS together to pick up prescriptions and I made an impulse buy of an Elsa doll that was on clearance. She was over the moon.

I got the 9-year-old in the car, solo, coming back from his swim practice. He was talkative about life, which was good. Actually, now that I think about it, he came into my office for a while in the morning too and we chatted. [He got the full overnight at the zoo this weekend, so he had 16 hours of Mommy time then].

I took the 7-year-old out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. He likes edamame, and I want to encourage the eating of anything other than chicken nuggets. He got a strawberry bubble soda, and we chatted for a bit before he demanded to see my phone to watch Dan TDM videos (I didn't hand it over until we were paying the check -- I told him he needed to be a good date!)

As for the 2-year-old, well, this was the less fun one-on-one time. He woke up, inexplicably, at 1:45 a.m. This used to be a more frequent thing, but over the last 3 months it's become mercifully less frequent. He proceeded to stay up until 4:15 a.m. I kept returning him to his bed, and trying to ignore him, but even if I ignored him, I couldn't sleep with him pounding on the door and yelling "Mommy!" Today I resorted to much propaganda. Every time we chatted: "Where do we stay when it's dark?" "In my crib." "How long does [his name] sleep?" "ALL NIGHT LONG." "Yes! Let's say it again!" Here's hoping he goes until it's light out.

Photo: Sashimi dinner. The 7-year-old ate white rice.

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14 Responses to One-on-one time


  1. Elisabeth Sharp McKetta says:

    Hooray for bedtime propaganda! We resort to those constantly: kids call them their “affirmations.”

  2. Amy says:

    I love how you worked out these “dates” with your kids. Question: How do you arrange it with the other kids when you are solo with one? I have one VERY jealous firstborn so even though I’ve had the intention to make one-on-one time with each, I’ve defaulted to time with n=3! Ideas for making the others happy?

    • @Amy- I don’t know that I necessarily arrange it. I guess I just don’t view it as my responsibility to make the others happy with it. I mean, everyone is going to get their time, and I can remind the party who is not currently getting time with mommy that he/she had time or will have time soon. When I do bigger things I tend to do them all around the same time so this becomes less of an issue. So my summer Mommy Days all happened within 2 weeks. I had planned to wait longer for the 9-year-old’s day but he was somewhat distraught about that, so I cleared a weekend day and made it happen. There are also activities the bigger kids like (e.g. playing video games) that will distract them from their feelings about anyone else’s Mommy time.

    • ARC says:

      I only have two girls, 4 & 7, so take this for what it’s worth. We try to time our 1:1 dates so hubby plans *something* fun with the other one while I’ve got one. It doesn’t have to be a big evening out, but just something intentional, even if it’s a trip to Home Depot to pick up the floater for the toilet. (Apparently my 4yo thought that was amazing!). Or we plan 1:1 dates when one girl is at a birthday party the other wasn’t invited to, and this eases the birthday party sadness.

  3. SHU says:

    “bedtime propaganda” is strong at our house, too.

    I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised that kids don’t like going to bed even when tired; adults often don’t either!

  4. As a new mom (about 6 months in now) to 5 (yes, 5), I can attest to the fact that having that 1-on-1 time is so important. And also hard to get! Everyone needs something, but taking those moments to talk, to find out what happened at school, to check in on what’s bothering them, or to splurge by stopping at the ice cream truck… I know it makes each one feel special, and I find myself saying, “Hey, this kid isn’t so bad!”… at least until we get home and she (or he) starts pounding on a sibling. 😉 Love this post, Laura.

    • @Carrie- thanks! I’m sure you’ve really got a crash course going on with going to a big brood so quickly. At least I had some time to practice as I went up from 1 to 4. Sounds like you’re figuring out a lot 🙂

  5. Brooke Kent says:

    I love the “bedtime propaganda.” I use similar affirmations for hair-brushing with our 5-year-old. 😉

    In another vein, I thought you’d appreciate this WSJ article if you hadn’t seen it. It elaborates on many of the conference techniques I’ve seen you mention before:

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-power-of-conferences-in-a-social-media-age-1489372006

    • @Brooke – thanks for sharing that article. Yep, that’s pretty much what happens at the conferences!

  6. Jane says:

    Did the bedtime affirmations work? I would love one on one time with my 3. As a solo parent with no family nearby it rarely happens. I’ve learnt to enjoy the group dynamics more.

    • @Jane- somewhat! It worked that night. Then this past night he woke up at 4:30, went back to sleep for a bit, but was up for good by 5:30. Sigh.
      As for the one-on-one time when solo parenting, I’d say 90% of my one-on-one time comes because I have a sitter. I know that’s not feasible for everyone, but when some people out in the world disparage childcare, I look at my own experience and know that it allows me quality time with my kids. It’s not even about oh, I need time to myself so I can be a better parent. It’s about actually spending time with my kids!
      But even without that, there can be options. Maybe two kids have playdates with friends and you get time with one of them. Or after the littler ones go to bed you spend time with the older one. Or you trade off with a neighbor. Or two of the kids play video games and you get some at-home solo time with the other. That sort of thing.

  7. Natalie Williams says:

    I am giggling about the photo caption. Sounds like a couple of kids at my house. Except we usually go out for Mexican, and they eat plain flour tortillas…

  8. Jennie says:

    My daughter, 11, and I are currently taking Bob Ross paint classes once a month. She’s the only girl and the middle child. Sometimes she gets the short end because she’s not as aggressive about getting her time as her brothers are. My oldest,14, and I like to see movies together. I’m struggling with my youngest, 9, although he probably gets more this his share due to his “lap puppy” nature. It gets easier and less like a chore as they get older. I genuinely enjoy our one on one activities now.

  9. Jen Owens says:

    I’m a single parent, and the rare 1:1 time I get with each of my two boys is magical. It helps me remember what incredible little people they are, when they’re not trying to kill each other or asking me for something at the same exact time. How nice that you got some time with each of four that day!

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