Monday, 21 January 2013

One-on-one time with my boys

It sometimes feels like most of my time as a mom is spent on maintenance rather than enjoyment - making meals, cleaning up from meals, packing backpacks, signing notes and tests and agendas and writing cheques for school, helping with homework, folding laundry, making beds, picking up toys, tidying messes, breaking up arguments, getting snacks, pouring drinks, taxiing to and from playdates and sports, picking up new shoes and socks and sports gear, keeping little hands from touching things they shouldn't, herding the children from one task or activity to another in their busy little days. I'm an at-home mom, so I get to spend a lot more time with my kids than most parents do - but sometimes it feels like quantity over quality.

I do make an effort to make as much of the time count as I can. I do most of the cleaning (and anything else I can put off during the day) at night after the boys are in bed so I don't waste our precious time together on mundane tasks. When they ask to play cards or a board game or build Lego or play outside I do. When they just want to play a video game or watch a show I sit down to battle them in Mario Kart or snuggle up on the couch for an episode of Mickey Mouse or Transformers. When they tell me stories about their day or something that happened at school or the details of how they played superheroes and Jedis with their best friend at recess or give me a blow-by-blow of what just happened five seconds ago on their television program or tell a meandering, making-it-up-as-they-go story I listen and ask questions.

I'm constantly planning activities, whether it's one of our epic craft projects or going for a hike through the ravine or playing at the park or swimming at the community centre or skating at the pond or meeting friends at the indoor playplace or going to the zoo or the Science Centre or the library. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of maximizing my time and attention on all three of my boys - but at the end of the day, despite having spent the entire day with them, I often feel like I haven't really had any quality time with any one of them at all.

And I think that's because there are so many of them.

How can I have quality, focussed time with any one of my boys when there are two others right there wanting the same? Even when I'm having a nice cozy moment with one or the other of my special little guys, it's always in the middle of multi-tasking all three. I can sit at the dining room table doing homework with my oldest while he tells me all about everything that happened at school that day and talks about his friends and what he played at recess and the book he's reading and the dream he had last night - but I have Baby in the high chair next to me and I'm passing him crayons, picking his book up off the floor, and hopping up and down every few seconds to grab him a handful of grapes, some crackers, a sippy cup; and though I've set Middle child up with a snack and an activity to keep him occupied for the few minutes I'm occupied with his older brother it's "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" every few seconds. To survive in this house I've literally had to learn how to have two or three conversations at a time.

Both of the older boys are constantly vying for my attention - interrupting each other when they're talking with "Mommy Mom Mommy Mommy Mama Mama Mom Mom Ma Ma Ma Ma...I love you" because they actually have nothing to say. (That Family Guy episode was eerily accurate.) Baby requires constant attention because he's a baby. Everyone wants a snack, a drink, to ask a question, to tattle on each other. It's hard not to feel pulled in a half-dozen directions at once, and it's hard to feel like I'm focussing enough individual attention on each one of my boys.

(Family Guy - courtesy of YouTube)

Baby gets plenty of one-on-one time with Mommy when his older brothers are at school. But it's the older two. It's so hard to squeeze quality alone time in, despite how much time I do spend with them.

I try. I take one or the other of them out for a little one-on-one mother-son coffee date every few weeks while my husband hangs out with our other two sons, and I cherish these special little private chats. I also take one or another of them swimming just the two of us every couple of weeks - a little less chat and a little more play, but special nonetheless. When one of the boys has a playdate with a friend - whether they're playing here or at the other boy's house - I make sure to do something special with the other boy, even if it's just the two of us playing a game of cards. I do try.

But with three little boys at home - and one still a toddler - Mommy only has so many moments to spare. My hope is that as the boys get older - and as Baby becomes less of a baby and more of an independent little boy - there will be fewer hours in the day devoted to caring for "the kids" as a package and more time free to care about them individually as their own little people with more one-on-one time for each little boy.


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