When I was a kid, we lived next door to a family with four children. I was good friends with their daughter, and I was regularly at their house to play. However, one Saturday a month, my friend would be unavailable to play. One Saturday a month, she had a day with her dad. Every Saturday, their dad, who was an architect with his own firm, took one child out to eat for lunch. It was their day to spend time with their father. At the time, it was annoying to me that my friend couldn’t play. Now, as a parent, their long standing commitment to a monthly lunch and one-on-one time has left a lasting impression on me.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I had plans to be very intentional about spending one-on-one time with my oldest, who was 3 1/2. However, Covid hit just after my daughter was born, and any plans for a grandparent to babysit her while I spent time with my son, Tom, fell by the wayside. I could tell, as quarantine wore on, that he was sad about not receiving my full attention anymore. And even though I knew it was normal, and healthy, for him to realize that his family now included his sister and didn’t revolve around him, it still made me sad to know that he missed me.
So, a few months into quarantine, when we, and the grandparents, felt a bit more comfortable, I planned a “Mom and Tom” Day for my son. We had a morning to ourselves, and he chose the activities. We went for a walk in a neighborhood, played Nintendo, and grabbed some Chick Fil A for lunch. It wasn’t elaborate. But you would have thought I’d planned a day at Disney for him. He talked about it for days afterward, and he was immediately planning the next Mom and Tom Day. Even though the newfound comfort with grandparents meant that both kids could be dropped off and I could have alone time, I instead found myself looking forward to solo time with Tom.
Unfortunately, we did not get many opportunities for these outings for a while, between Covid and my daughter being so young. However, this fall, an opportunity presented itself. I signed my son up for a weekly class, located around the corner from my parents’ house. The class requires regular parent volunteers. So I arranged for my parents to watch my daughter and signed up for as many volunteer spots as I could, without seeming like the weird, overly involved mom. And each week, before his class, we go out for Mom and Tom time. We’ve gotten ice cream, browsed at the library, played at the playground. Sometimes, we just roll through a Starbucks and have our drinks outside on a park bench. It isn’t for very long, maybe 30 minutes each week. But each Wednesday morning, Tom tells me, “Mom, today we’re having Mom and Tom time!” And each evening afterwards, he tells me how much fun he had with me that afternoon. It makes my mama heart so happy.
I know that this class won’t last forever. And I’m about to have my 3rd baby, so the dynamics of our weekly schedule are obviously about to change. But what this fall, and the gift of regular solo time with Tom, has taught me is that making the time for intentional, one-on-one time with my children is so incredibly important. The fruits of this effort have been beautiful. When we have this solo time, my son shares with me about his day, questions about which he’s been thinking, or plans that he has for future Mom and Tom times. He requests snuggles and hugs each and every time.
I know he is 5, and he won’t always want to spend this one-on-one time with me. However, my hope is that as he grows, Mom and Tom time will grow with him. Maybe we’ll go for bike rides, grab breakfast on Saturday mornings, or check out the latest zoo exhibit. Maybe, as fellow introverts, we’ll just spend time together quietly or read the same books. Maybe when he’s an adult, we’ll enjoy grabbing a beer together.
I don’t know what my future relationships with my children will look like. However, my prayer is that by showing them now that investing in our individual relationships with one-on-one time is one of my highest priorities, that they will value and nurture it in the future as well.