Leave Us Alone!

About a month ago my nine-year-old daughter, Estella, expressed that she had been feeling a little neglected. At first, I was a little exasperated because I work really hard to make sure that I pay attention to each of my five children. But, as I thought about it a little more, I realized that although I talk to them, hold them, teach them, and take care of them all day long, they very rarely get one-on-one time with me.

That means every conversation normally includes at least one other sibling, and typically that sibling is interrupting them, contradicting them, or just plain getting on their nerves. It also means that every time they are on my lap, another child decides they want up there too. And, of course, they trip over each other constantly trying to be the one that Mom takes care of first and most. Honestly, if they are away from me for more than an hour they think they are going to die. My son, having spent the whole day with me, then an hour with his Daddy, upon my return actually said, “Mom! I missed you so much! I haven’t seen you allll day!” Seriously.

But still, I can see how she might feel neglected. Diluted attention is not the same thing as undivided attention! So, she and I discussed how she would feel more attended to. I was afraid that she was going to ask for some grand gesture, which then, would need to be repeated in some fashion for each of her siblings. In a big family, that type of thing is okay occasionally, but it’s definitely not sustainable. Then I was worried that she’d ask for a couple of hours a day with just Momma. Again, this would need to happen for everyone, which is impossible in such a big family. Many other impossibilities crossed my mind, before she offered a simple and completely reasonable and workable solution. She suggested that she get 15 minutes of undivided “Mommy Time” each night before bed. We both agreed that if she could be ready for bed by a certain time, the Mommy Time would fit right into our bedtime routine.

And, yes, of course, the other children wanted the same. But, there are only four of them old enough to want their 15 minutes, so all told I’m looking at an hour of time. (Yes, even my 16-year-old claims his 15 minutes when he can.) That’s completely reasonable, not to mention the fact that I’m spending that time with them either way.

There are a few conditions. One, the baby has to always be welcome, since when he needs Momma he needs Momma. If he’s happy with Dad, that’s great. But if not, he joins us. None of them have a problem with that since they all adore their baby brother. (He’s pretty darn cute.) Two, they have to be ready for bed in time or it’s a no go. Bedtime is non-negotiable since pretty much all of my children are Mr. Hyde when they are tired. Three, sometimes it just isn’t going to work. For example, if we are at an event that keeps us out until almost or after bedtime, we most likely are not going to be able to do Momma Time. They can’t throw fits when it just isn’t possible.

It is amazing how important Momma Time is to each of them. Bedtime resounds with cries of, “It’s my Momma Time!” They will move heaven and earth to be ready in time so they don’t miss out. It makes me feel very loved and reminds me how very important I am to them. What an honor that is!

This time is treasured by both my children and me. I love the opportunity to sit in a quiet room with just one child. They each have their own way they like to “do” Momma Time. But mostly, it’s just simple stuff: talking, reading, drawing, and snuggling. No movies! (More on that later, but for now we are mostly tv free.)

The time is a chance for me to see just that child, with no other distraction. And believe me, there is a difference. If you have never done one-on-one time with your children, I encourage you to do so; whether it is once a day or once a month, I guarantee you will enjoy it and see the value in it. Here are some of the things I have noticed in our alone time:

My children are thoughtful. Not just in a “think about others way” although they are that. But they think about LOTS of things. Interesting, deep, intriguing thoughts. Thoughts I wouldn’t get to hear if I was in a room full of people with them.

My children are individuals. It’s difficult to see them for who they are when you are wrangling a squirming 7 month old that wants to eat everything on the floor, debating with a three-year-old, who suddenly behaves like the Mad Hatter, hushing a never-ever-ever quiet seven-year-old, calming a sensitive nine-year-old, and checking to make sure the 16-year-old isn’t on Facebook during school hours again. But when I’m alone with each of them, I can hear them. Not the cacophony that all of them add up to, but each individual voice. It helps remind me to treat them like a unique person and not a number.

My children are different when they are alone with me. It is amazing to me how different each of them act during Momma Time. I assume it’s the fact that they no longer feel like they have to compete for attention. Whatever it is, it’s fascinating. I get to see a whole different side of each personality during our alone time. The time also seems to be able to fix pretty much any mood issues we’re having too.

My children are growing up. Sitting having a calm conversation I notice their little faces are thinning out, they legs are sooo long, they know so many things, and I know that one day soon they won’t be available for a nightly Momma Time. My 6’3” 16-year-old man child reminds me of that! I covet that time.

My children are people. They matter right now. Although they are growing up, they aren’t who they are going to be. They aren’t who I hope they will be. They aren’t who others expect them to be. They are who they are right now. And I don’t want to waste moments waiting for life to calm down, or worrying about who they’ll be when they grow up. Of course I will keep teaching them, keep training them, and keep correcting them. But I will not do that in lieu of being present during each moment.

It’s easy for a child to get lost in a big family. Momma Time is a wonderful way to keep each child centered in the family. Do you do individual time with your children? What have you noticed about this time?

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