Going one-on-one (or trying to)

photo-173My kids are starting to play well together. The 2-year-old is finally mature enough to interact with her brothers (ages 4 and 7) instead of automatically causing total havoc. This is the upside of having siblings close in age: constant playmates! Sometimes they play and entertain themselves and I get to just sit there. But there’s a lot of arguing too, and when I’ve got the whole crew, I feel like the dynamic is often me maintaining order, as opposed to interacting with and enjoying the kids. The 2-year-old also, inevitably, gets more attention than the others in these situations. That’s a function of her age, but also her personality. A quote the other day: “Mommy, I don’t like red.” Me: “OK, you don’t have to like red.” Her: “I don’t think there should be a red.”

So I’m trying to get in the habit of creating more one-on-one time with each child, particularly the older two. I know, from tracking my time, that I do spend time with them, but I want to be aware of it when it’s happening, so I seize opportunities to stretch it a little or see what the child wants to talk about. This one-on-one time just makes parenting more fun.

On Saturday I walked my 7-year-old to a friend’s birthday party. It was a 15-minute walk instead of a 2-minute drive, but we not only scored steps on the Fitbit, we got to discuss my 7-year-old’s occasional anxiety. He wasn’t sure who’d be at the party, and he was worried if I’d gotten it right that he should wear his swimsuit (it was a pool party). We talked that it was good to be interested in details — that’s a strength when it comes to school assignments and art projects. Worrying isn’t necessarily as helpful; as he pointed out to me, “It usually is OK.”

I drove the 4-year-old to a playdate on Friday, and I also took him swimming, solo. He’s getting so much better at swimming, and it was nice to be able to have him swim to me without also needing to keep an eye on the 2-year-old (who apparently, at the beach the other week, walked straight into the ocean — I’m not sure anyone was expecting that…) With three kids, all of this requires some logistical juggling. There needs to be another adult around. But it doesn’t seem to need to be much time in order to make the kids (and me) happier.  

How do you create one-on-one time with your kids?

In other news: A new study claims that the right amount of time to spend with each direct report (for optimal engagement) is 6 hours per week. All this requires estimating, and any study has issues, but this suggests that people can’t effectively manage more than 6-7 people, which may be true.

Real Simple devotes an issue to the topic of laundry. I’ve been puzzling about Kristin van Ogtrop’s editor’s letter. She talks about hating laundry, and hating it more the more she does it. So my question: why is she doing it? There may be a blog post in this.

I stayed up late last night finishing Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. Good stuff. My favorite image is her watching the wagon wheels cut a muddy road, after the rain, into “chocolate ribbons.”

Photo: We went to Dutch Wonderland this weekend. The rides were a hit, but so was the sandbox (naturally). For those of you in the Pennsylvania region, it’s a good alternative to Sesame Place.

17 thoughts on “Going one-on-one (or trying to)

  1. Speaking of PA attractions: Have you been to the Turkey Hill Experience or the Crayola Experience? We took the kids to both this month and surprisingly enough, even my almost-15 year old enjoyed them (I was unsure he was going to like the Crayola Experience!).

    1. @The Frugal Girl – we haven’t, though it sounds like both would be great for the kids. Crayons and ice cream!

      1. Yep! The Crayola place especially had a lot of interactive stuff that I think your kids would like.

        If you go to Turkey Hill, definitely pay for the make-your-own-flavor ice cream experience. It wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without that.

  2. Oh, the laundry discussion. That’s a big one for me — I *hate* laundry, but there are multiple points to the laundry discussion, and outsourcing isn’t always a solution, even if it’s an option.
    Bundle services can destroy clothes. Someone still has to remember to gather it up, drive it to the laundry and pick it up again. Someone still has to do my least favorite part — put it away. My 4-yo puts his clothes away most of the time, as does my husband (I am horrified to admit that I just now, after 10 years of marriage, stopped putting my husband’s clothes away for him — I just started stacking the folded clothes on his side of the bed, and he got the hint).
    This morning, we had one of those, “Where are my tan t-shirts?” crises I despise, because somehow, as the laundry do-er, it’s MY fault he doesn’t have clean clothes. I usually point out that I don’t do a daily inventory of his closet, and if he doesn’t want to use his perfectly able body do the laundry, it’s still his responsibility to let me know in advance that he needs things washed. I don’t know what happened to his uniform t-shirts, since he claims he had 2 weeks’ worth, and I know I’m not 2 weeks behind on laundry, but it doesn’t really matter. I still hate it, he still knows I hate it, and I still end up being the only one who will do it. And no. Outsourcing is not a solution for us.

    1. @Meghan – agreed that the bundle service is often not easy if you live outside a big urban city center (in NYC it was in our building or across the street — we passed by a dozen times a day. Not a huge ordeal). When people outsource it, it usually takes the form of including it in the job description of a nanny, mother’s helper, etc. Or a family has a PT housekeeper for a few hours a week who does it. I agree that not everyone is going to do that for obvious financial reasons. But the Real Simple editor’s letter struck me wrong because top editors of major magazines can earn 7 figures. If she hates laundry, she can afford to outsource it.

      1. Okay, that clarifies it a little bit. Laundry’s just my big irritation today! Maybe it’s just the hassle of finding/interviewing/hiring a housekeeper. I dunno — if I had a 7-figure income, you can bet I’d have a housekeeper!

      2. I would assume she was trying to sound “relatable”, since if she mentioned she outsourced it, there would be an outcry about her obvious privilege and how the average reader of her magazine couldn’t do that, and blah blah. Its one of those “safe” “women” topics, kvetching about the laundry: Ugh laundry sucks, amiright ladies!!

  3. Our girls are very close in age too and the youngest gets more attention than the oldest.Sometimes,I take her (the oldest) grocery shopping with me and spend time together going somewhere after that.I spend one-on-one with them when one takes a nap or already went to bed while the other one is still up.

  4. A comment actually related to your main post — I’ve had my youngest one-on-one in the mornings this week, and it’s been so great. It’s SO easy! The times I have my oldest to myself are just as easy, and I really treasure those, especially as he’s such a daddy’s boy. We frequently “divide and conquer”, but I’m trying to push alternating the division and getting more time with the oldest, and giving my husband more time with the baby, who at 16 months, isn’t so much of a baby anymore.

  5. Even with 2, I struggle with the attention thing. The little one (21 months) gets so much more because she’s always trying to do something unsafe 😉 And the 4.5yo is so self-sufficient these days with self-care stuff so we don’t automatically have that time for “fun”.

    What I LOVE LOVE LOVE is “dates” with my 4.5yo. I can take her so many places and have fun – the local art museum, which also has a kids’ craft afternoon once a month, or a kids’ show at the symphony, or even just shopping or lunch.

    The 21 month old isn’t ready for a lot of these, and it’s WAY more stressful having her around.

    With just the 4.5yo it’s actually fun and relaxing. So I try to do this at least once a week, and we also have some “craft time” together where we each work on our own stuff. It’s really nice.

    1. @ARC – Yes! Taking a 4.5 year old somewhere can be really fun. They’re curious, and generally able to behave. Chasing after a toddler creates a completely different experience.

  6. Yeah, everything is much easier with one. I prefer the one to be my 4.5 year old, because I can actually have a conversation with him—its actually FUN for me, vs. the 2.5 year old, who just isn’t there yet, and is more into “baby games” still like tickling and peek a boo and such. I like the days I can take my older son to a check-up and then dawdle on the way back to work/school. With the toddler its more of a chore. We get one on one with the little one most mornings bc he wakes up first (by at least an hour, most days) and with the older son when/if little one takes a nap on weekends. They do swimming back to back on saturdays so we each take one.
    Mine fight CONSTANTLY and it is so tiring, but they also mostly refuse to be separated, they want to be together but haven’t quite figured out how to navigate the relationship, so I suppose our help is needed.

  7. It’s not because they are close in age! It’s just different. My 13yo adores playing Legos w my 5yo and my 16yo colors w him for hours. That they have found activities that they truly love to do together is a great joy.

    We live in a very small city. The service that does our laundry picks it up from our house. They fold it and separate it by owner (- I am not sure how they figure this out but they do–by size I guess) When they do it it does not sit for hours and therefore is not wrinkled. The cleaning lady puts the kids stuff away. If it is her pain point– she shouldn’t do it.

  8. I have a mantra for your older son: don’t tell me worrying doesn’t help, half the things I worry about never happen!

    Our boys are 5 years apart. This is fine, though when they were younger I sometimes wished we had one in between. And we sort of did: the little girl next door, one year behind our oldest, was over a LOT from the time she was two! We’d take her with us on our outings on school holidays and on weekends since her parents worked, and we treated her like our own…she even looked like our kids. It was nice. Once they’re in middle school and up, with conflicting activities, though, two is just fine! Though I suppose an 11-year-old could have baby sat the 7-year-old while I drop off the 8th grader for early band practice.

  9. So I know this is a late comment.
    I have a laundry schedule and it has really taken the stress out of doing the laundry for 6 people.
    Everyone in the house knows the schedule and I try to get everyone involved in their own clothes. After all mom won’t be doing their laundry forever.
    Also, if I get behind or the older boys (11 and 9) forget to bring their clothes down on there day…I catch up on the weekend. I just made up my mind not to stress about laundry. Now if I could just make and stick to a cleaning schedule.
    Ps to the lady who also hates putting away the laundry….think outside the box. I believe that is what Laura is trying to get us to do. Why fold? Perhaps hanging is the way to go. Or maybe it’s just finding a new way to fold. For example we roll pjs up. It’s fun for the littles and it’s how I get them started.
    So enough rambling…I think it comes down to mind set. If we don’t have enough $$ to outsource than what is it going to take to make it enjoyable. Or at least enjoyable.

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