Monday 20 November 2017

The Importance Of Spending One-to-one Time With Each Child

When you're caring for a newborn baby, it feels impossible to make time for your first born. Games are played and stories are read over the head of a feeding baby, as you try to juggle the demands of two children at once. Some days you feel like a superhero for keeping everybody safe and happy and loved, and other days you feel like a failure because everybody (you included) cried at the same time. 

When Ember was about nine months old, we went on a family holiday to Majorca.  During that holiday, I was overwhelmed with the realisation that Ebony was growing up. Growing taller and funnier and more confident, she felt so grown up all of a sudden. Ember was feeding less frequently and getting a little less dependent on me, so I decided to start planning some things to do with just Ebony. Thanks to the free wi-fi at the apartment, I ended up booking lots of theatre tickets so I could take Ebony to see various shows. 

One of those shows was on Saturday. We went, just the two of us, a whole day out by ourselves. We got the train into Manchester, we got some takeout lunch and ate it by the water at Media City. Then we watched the show, The Hunting Of The Snark, and it was amazing. Ebony belly-laughed most of the way through. Then we headed back to Manchester and popped into a cafe to get a vegan brownie each. And then it was time to go home. We were only gone for five hours but it felt like a mini-holiday because it was so refreshing to spend some quality time with just Ebony. It's something we try to do regularly and something I feel is really important because:

1. It used to always be just the two of us
For four and a half years, Ebony was the sidekick who never left my side. She didn't have to compete for my attention or share me with anyone else. She was my best friend and my partner in crime (we committed no crimes). And now things are different. There is another little girl on the scene. And my two little girls love each fiercely. And they are each other's partners in crime (they commit many crimes). And the days of Me & Ebony against the world are over, for she has a new sidekick now. And so sometimes I like to have a few hours where it's just the two of us again because I don't ever want us to lose that bond. 

2. I get plenty of time with her sister
One of the many genius things about a four year age gap is that you end up with one in school and one at home, So, you get to relive those lovely newborn days properly. You're not running after a toddler or negotiating with a preschooler, you're lounging on the sofa in pyjamas just like you should be. When Ebony is at school, I get the whole day with her little sister. We get to do so many of the things I did with Ebony when she was a toddler. So it seems only fair that I get some along time with the bigger one, too. 

3. We can do different things
Toddlers are lovely and a lot of fun. But they're crap at sitting nicely in restaurants, they shout over shows and they run havoc in the cinema. There are a lot of things that toddlers just can't do. Taking Ebony out by herself means we get to do things that would be otherwise impossible. Or, rather, not impossible but bloody hard work. So, we save up those things and do them when it's just the two of us. 

4. The years pass quickly
Every so often, I stop for a moment to really look at Ebony and I'm shocked by how grown up she seems. Her limbs are longer, leaner and stronger than they used to be. Her words are chattier, funnier and, um, make more sense. She's growing up. It's happening quickly and without me really noticing. If I don't stop and savour these moments, they will soon be gone and she will be grown. I don't want to put things off for another time, I want to soak up as much of both of my girls while they're still little and want to spend time with me. 

5. Life is pretty chaotic
School takes up a huge chunk of time. And then there's drama. And seeing friends. And family. And before you know it, there isn't really much time for just hanging out. The time we do spend together as a family feels chaotic. It's me trying to get everybody ready in the morning while Ebony reads her school book and Ember screeches in the background. Chats on the way home from school where I can't really hear what Ebony is saying because of the sound of cars in the distance and her sister asking her snacks. Rushed bedtimes and late starts and rushing to stay on top of things. None of that feels like quality time.  

6. I want to strengthen our bond
I want my girls to love each other and like each other and always be a part of each other's lives. But I also want to protect my own relationship with each of them. I want to treat them as individuals and have special memories with each of them. I want to really know them and love them for who they are. And to achieve that, I need to invest time in each of them. 

7. It gives us opportunity to reconnect 
It's hard being five. You have to concentrate in school, social relationships are complex, people say mean things, you feel left out or upset or cross. There are big emotions you can't always put into words. You're tired or poorly or you have growing pains. There's a lot going on. It's important you feel loved and accepted and secure at home, and how can you achieve that without quality time with your family? I need to make time to reconnect with her because sometimes life is too busy and I miss her. 

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