The other night my oldest daughter wanted to bake one of the recipes from my blog for her class to try. I let her stay up after the other kids all went to bed so she could help me. After we finished and she was heading to bed, she turned to me and said “thanks for taking your free time and spending it with me Mom”.
My heart shattered into a million pieces right there. When your child is thanking you for spending time with them, that’s a problem (for me anyway).
I never want my kids to feel like they need to thank me for spending time with them. But I get it. There’s four of them and only a few hours a day when they’re not in school. Life is busy and exhausting and sometimes just hard. But that comment made me realize I need to make spending time with each of them individually a top priority. Because now is the time that I can still set them up for success in life and try and shape them to be amazing people (before they get too old and cool for Mom).
So I’ve decided that I'm going to put my phone down more while they’re awake. I won’t be checking it until after they've gone to school for the day and when they get home I won't be on it much until after they go to bed. I am going to be more present.
I pick up two of the kids from school an hour before I have to get the other two, so after snack, I divide that time between them. My youngest likes to play trucks so first I read him a book and then I sit with him and we play for 15 minutes or so. Just that little bit of time spent together has made a huge improvement in his behaviour.
After I'm done playing with my youngest, I go to my younger daughter and she reads to me (we are currently into the Dog Man series). Being a middle child, I've noticed that she craves any attention that she can get so this time spent snuggling and reading has really made a difference for her as well.
If we’re in a time crunch because of after school activities, the two that come home early will even help me prepare dinner (and they absolutely love it!) so we’re spending time together and things are getting done quicker because I’m not trying to do everything alone.
My older son and I have our time together on the walk home from the bus stop (my oldest walks with her friends). I also make time to read to him at night.
And my oldest. She is the one who snapped me back to the reality that she still needs me. We have started hanging out after the younger kids go to bed. We'll do face masks or just sit and have a cup of tea and talk about our days. With her getting older and "big kid problems" just around the corner, I want her to know that I will always be there for her.
Some days I really question my decision to have so many kids. Not because I don’t want them, they’re my world, but because I didn’t think about how I was going to give them each the time and attention they deserve. Sometimes I even feel selfish for having so many and wonder if I made a mistake and I should have stopped at a reasonable number (like 2). There’s obviously no going back now so I’m just going to have to keep making the conscious effort to make special time for each of them.
My friend Kelsey from Kelsey Diane Blog has a great idea where she takes each of her kids out of school one day a month for a special lunch on a certain date and I’m going to start implementing that idea as well. It doesn't necessarily even have to be "out" (since we're trying to save money) we can even have a special lunch at home. There are always ways to make things work.
We are also going to make the most of our weekends together. Last weekend we took our first trip to the United States for some shopping (and eating), and this coming weekend we're taking the kids out of school on Friday and going camping for a few nights.
The truth is, motherhood is hard. We’re all just trying to do the best we can. And as long as we're trying, our kids will be okay. And sometimes, it's the little things that matter the most.