I have three boys ranging in age from 12 to 2 years old. Due to age and level of maturity, it's probably no surprise that the youngest one occupies the majority of my non-working time. While he's definitely getting better at independent play, he still has a short attention span and requires a lot more hands-on attention. Don’t get me wrong, I try my best to balance my time between the three of them, but no matter how hard I try it never really feels totally equal.
In an attempt to shift the paradigm, I made arrangements to have a full weekend with my middle son Harrison. Spencer, my eldest, had plans with his camp friends, so I made arrangements with my mom for her to watch Daniel. I spent the majority of the week finalizing plans, making last minute arrangements, and getting us both ready and he spent the week asking when it was time to leave. It was finally time to head out on our mini-adventure and from the second we hit the road I could almost see the excitement oozing out of him; he was genuinely happy and couldn’t wait for his weekend to begin.
The first night was low key, but the next day was filled with all his favorites: breakfast, a full day at the beach, an evening bike ride, dinner outside overlooking the water, ice cream, and a really late bedtime. We must have spent 6 or 7 hours at the beach and although it was extremely hot with super-intense ocean waves, we both loved every minute.
The next day after breakfast we headed to miniature golf before meeting up with some friends for another day at the beach. With him now occupied with kids of a similar age, it meant I didn’t need to jump in each and every wave with him, but it did still allow me to watch him smile, play, and most importantly, have fun!
The combination of Harrison being so happy and me being fully present in the moment with him was exactly what the doctor ordered; for the first time in a long time I wasn't juggling multiple balls or feeling guilty about the things I wasn’t doing. I still find it amazing how easy it is to make ourselves feel guilty and put ourselves down with negative self-talk.
For those of you who are parents of multiple children, I urge you to keep reminding yourself that it’s not a contest and you don’t need to worry about evenly dividing every minute of every day between your children; the kids don’t look at it that way so why should we? We're all trying to be the very best parent to our children and at the end of the day that's really all that matters. Lets all try to shift the focus from what we are not doing to what we are doing and simply enjoying each and every moment as they are.
So, the next time you're given the opportunity to spend quality time alone with one of your children, I suggest you jump up and grab the bull by the horns. It’s really important to carve out that individual time with your kids and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment; you might just realize how much you've missed out on and start finding ways to do it more often. For me personally; I plan to make it an annual tradition and am already looking forward to the next one.