The importance of one-to-one time

Isaac dim sum

Heather and I split up over the weekend. For the sake of the children, you understand.

No, not like that.

When you have three young and demanding children, weekends and school holidays represent key times for us to spend together as a family. But they are also opportunities for us to spend some one-to-one time with the kids, something that is easily overlooked but just as important.

So it was that Heather and I spent most of Mother’s Day weekend apart – and this was a good thing. Here’s how we gave each of the kids a little one-to-one focus on Saturday:

  • Toby has just started swimming lessons on a Saturday morning, which means an opportunity to grab a sneaky babyccino or similar with either Heather or I afterwards.
  • While Heather was out with Toby and Isaac was occupied playing Minecraft, Kara and I snuggled up together with the iPad and started compiling a playlist of her favourite music. This soon segued into a daddy/daughter singing session and a tangential exploration of classic movie dance scenes (Flashdance, tick; Footloose, tick).
  • Isaac and I strolled into town to do some shopping and enjoy a leisurely coffee. It gave us a chance to catch up on what’s happening at school and life in general, and to expand at length – Isaac can talk for England – on all the stuff we don’t have time to cover in the frenetic school/dinner/bedtime weeknight rush.

Then on Mother’s Day we split up again. We gave the kids the choice of where they wanted to go – with me to see my family or with Heather to visit her mum – and Toby opted for some more mummy time while I took the other two to London.

So while Isaac and Kara feasted on dim sum with my folks – giving them one-on-one time with Uncle Peter and Grandma respectively – Toby had the opportunity to indulge in his latest burning interest, hunting down geocaches with Heather as they travelled home in the afternoon.

Yes, it means we spend time apart that we could have spent together. But instead of compromising on doing the least objectionable activity as one big group, it meant each of the kids had the opportunity to do what they really wanted to do without one of their siblings moping around saying how bored they were and competing for parental attention, which leaves everyone frustrated.

In most of these cases this one-to-one time was no more than 30 minutes to an hour. It’s not much but it’s enough. And while we’ll continue to do activities as a family, there’s a lot to be said for going our separate ways occasionally too.

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