I’ve often heard friends talk about scheduling dates with their kids to ensure they spend one-on-one time with each of them. Hanging out with each kid without the drama of sibling rivalry always sounded like a wonderful, mom-blog-worthy idea. But how?!
I have some time alone with my youngest daughter after my older kids go to school in the morning, but the thought of adding anything else to the schedule feels overwhelming. I mean, come on, I can barely manage to schedule a date night with my husband. So I brushed the idea aside.
And then something magical happened.
Those one-on-one dates with my older kids started to occur organically, without too much effort on my part, all because I love to go on long walks.
After a day spent shuffling kids to activities, cleaning the house, and managing sibling squabbles, I often need to get outside and walk. There’s something so peaceful about experiencing nature while putting one foot in front of the other. And when I go for a walk with a friend, it’s like I’ve hit the trifecta of self-care: nature, exercise, and great conversation. I regularly walk with a friend during the week, but it’s hard to coordinate meet ups on the weekend when everyone’s schedules are so busy.
One day a couple of years ago, I was headed out for a walk and my oldest kid, now 14, asked to come with me. At first, I was hesitant: Did I want to give up my desperately needed alone time? Would I still be able to recharge if I had a kid with me? I needn’t have worried.
It turns out that spending one-on-one time with a kid can be as energizing and recharging as spending time with a friend.
My two older children can bring out the best in each other, but they can also bicker, criticize, and make fun of each other. Maybe it’s because they’re so close in age and spend so much time together, or maybe it’s because, in some ways, they are complete opposites. Whatever the reason, it’s not fun to be in the middle of it.
During that first walk, my oldest daughter and I got to enjoy a long conversation. Nobody else was fighting for attention or talking over us. I wasn’t seeing all the ugly bits I sometimes witness when the girls are together. It was just the two of us, chatting about both mundane and important things. At the end of that walk, I not only felt recharged, I felt better about how my girl is turning out.
My daughter enjoyed the experience, too, and walking together has become a regular thing. Not to be outdone by her older sister, my 12-year-old also wanted to come on walks with me. Sometimes all three of us will walk together. But it usually works out that one kid is busy or wants to hang out at home, and I get to spend time with each girl individually.
Those are my happy-mom moments. When my kids are away from their siblings, they are completely different people. I appreciate my oldest daughter’s thoughtfulness and interest in weighty topics as we discuss current events and issues her generation faces. She’ll even ask questions about my experiences and really listens to the answers.
When walking with my 12-year-old, I get to appreciate her sense of humor. She’s the middle child, highly social and extroverted, and she shines when she can be fully herself. She keeps me entertained on our walks with stories about things happening at school.
Though I may not be organized enough to schedule dates with my kids, I’m grateful for the impromptu one-on-one time we have on our walks. These moments provide an opportunity for my daughters and me to get to know each other when we’re at our best. I feel less overwhelmed and cranky, and they thrive with all of the one-on-one attention I can give them. It truly is a gift for all of us.