It is great to do things as a family. We like to eat together as many evenings as is possible, have family outings and go on family holidays but from time to time a little one-on-one time is magical. By one-on-one time I mean a parent to child. One parent, one child (though having one-on-one time between the parents is vital too, but that is probably another post altogether!).
When you have multiple children it can be difficult to find the time for family stuff, let alone dedicating specific blocks of time to each one individually but I have discovered over the years the value to spending a little time with my kids one-on-one. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, it doesn’t even have to involve leave the house but it does mean dedicating yourself fully to that one child for whatever amount of time is available.
The first time one-on-one time really came onto my radar was when I went back to work after my third. There were big changes. For the first time ever we had an au pair and my oldest daughter had someone other than Mammy bring her to school. She had spent the entire of Junior Infants, her first year of Primary school, with Mammy there (as a result of my maternity leave) to drop her at the school door and collect her at home time.
She took the adjustment hard. She played up, was upset and it was generally heartbreaking trying to settle her into the new routine, despite the most amazing and patient au pair. My first week back to work I promised my daughter a day out if she was good (you’ve got to love bribery) and, after 5 long days back in the office, we headed off on our day out. It was just me and her. It was a simple trip to the city centre on the train, a visit to the (free) Natural history museum and a bite to eat in McDonalds but it worked. She really appreciated it. While it didn’t totally fix her difficult adjustment to me going back to work it certainly helped to assure her that Mammy hadn’t abandoned her and that I would always be there for her.
More recently one-on-one time with my kids has been mainly inadvertent rather than planned. Two children off at various activities (a football match, a party or a playdate) while one gets left behind. Or for my youngest, getting home from Montessori 2 hours earlier than the others get back from school allows a window of Mammy time to, if the weather is nice, go for a bike ride or the playground or even just sit in a play blocks or make jigsaws one-on-one.
As my oldest approached her birthday in December she was asked what she wanted as a gift she initially declared she wanted a violin but that quickly changed to her desire for a “girlie day” including a trip to see the X-factor live tour.
The day of her birthday she knew what the card contained. Two tickets for X-factor live in the 3 Arena on the 19th February. She waited patiently for almost 2 months and last Friday the day finally came.
While we had planned a full girlie day, the fact it was a Friday and a working day for Daddy meant we had her siblings with us for the day but we all travelled in to meet Daddy from work and before commencing our Mammy-daughter time we had a lovely family dinner in Milanos in the IFSC only minutes from the 3 Arena.
To say the excitement was palpable is probably an understatement. The girl who has become too cool to hold Mammy’s hand grasped my hand all the way to the 3 Arena. We took selfies and she chatted excitedly until the moment the action got going.
It was so amazing watching my little lady, who is fast becoming my grown up pre-teen, attend her first concert. She clapped, she screamed, she was in awe for the whole night.
As we headed home on a late train I looked at my tired little girl and smiled with a sense of pure satisfaction that I had spent such fabulous quality time with just her.
It has revitalised my desire to (try to) spend one-on-one time with each of my children. So when at 12 noon on Friday I pick up my littlest lady from Montessori I will endeavour to do something nice, with just her…..at least until it’s time to pick up the others from school!