In the three-ring circus that is life with children, one thing that is often overlooked is quality one-on-one time with our wiggling little larvae. Juggling work, school, homework, sports, pickups, and drop offs, we often forget that each of our children are little balls of increasingly complex emotions just waiting to pop—we've all experienced their irrational meltdowns. Individual time spent with each of your kids fosters a sense of trust, self-worth, and helps to build their emotional intelligence. Besides, who doesn't want their child to feel loved and important? Tell them you love them, but more importantly, show your little ones how important they are to you. What this quality time should look like is different for every relationship. For Evyn, my eldest daughter, quality time is a 20-minute lunch date with Mommy every other week, eating PB&Js in the car parked under a tree. For Quinn, my youngest daughter, quality time is sprinting around the room after bath time, stark naked and still soaked, while Mommy tries (and pretends to miss a few times) to catch her with a towel. Find out what works for your special relationship, but in the meantime, use these tips:
Earn a master's in your mini
Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Look your kiddo in the eye and use your body language to show him or her that you are listening: face them, put down any distractions, and smile. Give them your full attention, and show them you are interested in who they are and how unique they are. Play the interview game. Ask them questions as if they were celebrities, and get them to play along. You may be surprised at their answers!
Give each other silly nicknames
Be creative, be playful, and don't be afraid of a little potty humor. My darling baby-daddy has called our little princesses everything from cupcake to muffin-butt, to booger-nose to their delight. The one time I called Evyn cupcake, she looked at me funny and said, "You're not Daddy!" That was something special just for them, and it was odd to her that I would try to get in on it. My bad.
Have a regular lunch date or a play date
I am fortunate enough to work about 15 minutes away from my girls' preschool. So on payday, I take a long lunch and scoop up Evyn for a special car picnic with me. She gets to choose where we park, and gets to sit in the front seat while we eat our lunch and talk about our day. Sometimes we'll drive to a park and run around—just the two of us. If that isn't a possibility for you, try setting aside a special time or activity for each of your kids. Show them they are worth the planning and effort. Let them know you are looking forward to your special time with them and watch their little ego grow.
Be there even if you're not there
Sometimes due to work schedules, military service, or (in our case) incarceration, a parent may not be able to give the quality one-on-one time our kids need to grow into happy and emotionally healthy adults. Be omnipresent. Leave notes, write letters, send messages. Our girls yell, "Goodnight Daddy!" really loudly out of the window each night, and he writes them letters saying that he heard them and that it helped him get to sleep. Those little things matter. Make an effort.
Quality time with a loving parent gives your little ones the rare opportunity to be seen and heard in a way others cannot provide. Show them that you not only Love them with a capital L, but that you also like the person they are becoming, and they will like themselves too.