“Wherever you are, be all there” ~ Jim Elliot
“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” ~ Charles Swindoll
“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world” ~ Brandi Snyder
Never underestimate the importance of one-on-one time with each of your children. As the saying by Brandi Snyder goes, “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” This is especially true if you have younger children. There is nothing they want more than your time and undivided attention. Scheduling dates with each of your children is a good way to make them feel special. It sends them the message that you enjoy being with them and it lets them know they are worthy of your time. In our household, it doesn’t happen enough and I needed a gentle – or not so gentle – reminder from my daughter.
As a mother of three daughters, I constantly struggle with managing my time with each of them and trying to give them all equal attention, while keeping up all of the tasks involved in running a household and being a mom and wife. I try to sneak in one-on-one time with each of them whenever I can, but during that time I still find myself thinking about all the other things I need to do. I have a hard time giving my full attention when we are at home. I may be physically playing a board game with one of my daughters, but in my mind I’m trying to decide what to make for dinner or I’ll glance over to the sink, and my focus quickly turns to the dishes that need to be done. Or the buzzer to the dryer calls me. Or the phone rings. Our home is full of distractions, robbing us of our quality time together. I have found that scheduled dates away from home with each of them is the best way for me to “be ALL there”, physically and mentally, and to provide them with the focus and undivided attention they need from me.
When our youngest daughter, Kassi, was born (now age 5), my husband and I decided that we needed to let our older daughters know that we enjoyed being with them individually. With the new baby getting a lot of the attention from us, we did not want either of them to feel neglected, so we started scheduling monthly “dates” with each of them. I would take one of our older daughters one day that month, and my husband would take the other one another day during the month. The next month, we would switch girls. The girls loved it (and we did, too). On our dates, we would let our daughter choose where she wanted to go for lunch and what to do afterwards. Usually they would choose to go roller-skating or ice-skating with me, and would choose bowling or a movie with my husband. In the warmer weather, we sometimes went to the park or took a stroll on the beach. The girls were always on their best behavior during these dates because they weren’t competing with anyone for our attention. Our dates were ALWAYS the highlight of our week. We were really good about keeping these dates a priority for about a year, but then we unfortunately let life take over and the dates became sporadic and eventually stopped altogether.
As time went on, we put more focus on family time. Saturdays became “Family Day,” and that family time together became a priority in our lives. I never stopped to think that any of them might be feeling a little neglected until my middle daughter, Kaitlin (age 8), recently brought it up one day. Over breakfast one morning, she casually asked me why we were not going to have another baby. I told her that three was a good number for us, and if we had any more children we wouldn’t be able to give her and her sisters the attention we give them now. Her response to that was, “But, I don’t get any attention now.” That was not the response I was expecting. Actually, I was very surprised to hear that from her. I stopped to think about it for a minute, but it didn’t take long for me to realize she was right. While I work so hard to make our family time together so sacred, I realized how little focused time I spend alone with each of them. That was the wake-up call I needed. I told her we would go on a date on Saturday morning until noon. She was so excited for our date all week long.
The day finally arrived, and she woke up at 6:00 a.m. as usual, ready for our date. I could tell she was really excited for our time together. I devoted the entire morning to her and spent all of my time focused on nothing but her. I didn’t pick up my phone once, except to take a picture of her. This was her time, and the plan was just to do whatever she wanted. We went to breakfast at IHOP as soon as they opened at 7:00am. She had so much energy and talked the entire ride there, and all through breakfast. I could tell she was truly happy just knowing she had my full attention. After breakfast, she decided she wanted to go to the mall to get her hair cut (she only gets a haircut about once or twice a year, so that was a big deal to her.) Afterwards, we walked around in the mall and I let her pick out a new Beanie Boo (or “Big-Eyed Friend,” as my girls call them) to add to her collection (and she didn’t even have to use her own money!)
She was so happy! As we continued walking in the mall, she reached out and held my hand. She has always been reluctant to show affection physically, so that simple gesture brought me to tears. In that moment, I experienced a little piece of heaven. I felt a connection with my daughter that I had never felt before. I felt so blessed and full of love, happiness, and gratitude during our time together. Neither of us wanted the date to end, but we needed to be back home by noon, so we finished the date with an ice cream (could it get any better than that?), and then we drove home.
We didn’t do anything extraordinary that day, but that time together will be etched in my mind forever. I took the time to live in the moment and “be all there” for her. As I really watched her and listened to her, I was filled with gratitude and reminded what a beautiful gift she is. I feel so blessed and grateful for the bond we created and the memories we made together that day. I believe Heaven on Earth happens in moments, and those moments are always available to us if we take the time to slow down and view everything around us as a gift.
Making time for these dates requires some planning and effort, but the rewards have been far greater than I could have ever imagined. It is so easy to just let the days and weeks slip away, and before we know it, months and years have passed. I am going to try so hard not to let that happen again. Keeping relationships strong takes intention. These dates have helped us to form a deeper connection with our children, while boosting their self-esteem and making memories that will last a lifetime. I believe my children are a gift from God, and each moment I have with them is a gift.
It is my hope that this post will inspire some people to intentionally build relationships with their children. It is never too late to work on your relationships, even if your children are grown. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so it is so important to spend our time wisely – on the relationships that really matter.
Give Him a Day
by Olav Smedal
What shall you give to one small boy?
A glamorous game, a tinseled toy?
A Boy Scout knife, a puzzle pack?
A train that runs on some cruising track?
A picture book, a real live pet?
No, there’s plenty of time for such things yet
Give him a day for his very own.
Just one small boy and his Dad alone.
A walk in the wood, a romp in the park;
A fishing trip from dawn to dark.
Give him the gift that only you can.
The companionship of his “old man.”
Games are outgrown and toys decay,
But he’ll never forget
If you give him a day!