Why one-to-one time is precious

When you have three (or more) kids, one-to-one time is a precious commodity.

As the saying goes, time is money. We even talk about them in similar ways. Time, like money, is something we spend, we waste, we lose and we save.

One of the biggest changes we found in going from two to three children is that you lose the ability to easily spend one-to-one time with each child. Life is like an episode of Outnumbered where, as parents, you spend much of your lives zone-marking the children in an effort to prevent utter carnage.

I’ve got Isaac. You’ve got Toby. Kara’s on her way to you now – have you got her? Watch out for that … *crash followed by child crying*

It’s a never-ending battle for us as parents but it’s not easy on the kids either. They shout over each other in their attempts to be heard. They have to compromise what they really want in pursuit of an acceptable middle ground. They can’t start a one-to-one conversation with you without one of their siblings butting in.

No matter how much you do with them collectively, they suffer from the lack of individual attention. Cue general grumpiness and sibling rivalry among the kids and a pervasive, nagging guilt for the parents.

It doesn’t take much to turn things around, though. A little effort and planning makes a big difference.

Kara has gym class on Saturday mornings. Over the last two weekends I have taken each of the boys under my wing in turn to spend some much needed father/son time together. Meanwhile the other son gets to spend an hour with Heather while Kara’s in her class. Bonus.

With Isaac, we got to do the things we like to do together without having to worry about anyone else. We went for a walk – he’s obsessed with accumulating steps on his fitness watch – and had a long natter over coffee about anything and everything. As peculiar as it may sound, a visit to Majestic to restock with wine is something that only he and I do together, so we did that too.

The same was true of my morning with Toby. We popped up to the retail park to buy a gift he had picked out for Mother’s Day. Then we headed in to town for a leisurely coffee with chocolate cake – Toby’s treat of choice – followed by visits to a patisserie, Waterstones, Paperchase and Maplin. Baked goods, books, stationery and electronics made for a perfect morning from his perspective and it was lovely to be able to indulge him and just let him talk uninterrupted, something he never gets to do when his louder siblings are around.

It’s not much but then it doesn’t need to be. As we drove home from our morning out, Toby babbled enthusiastically about how much fun he had had and wouldn’t it be great if we could do it again once a month?

We’ll definitely do it again. All it takes is a little effort. But it has a big impact. Family time is important, of course. But one-to-one time is in many ways just as precious.

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