One of the best pieces of parenting advice I received before I had kids was to make an effort to spend quality 1:1 time with your kids. It made sense and sounded pretty obvious to me at the time. When we had our first child, Harper, we made this a priority from the beginning and found our stride. It was not until we had our second child, Gannon, that we began seeing how easy it was for the day and weeks to be filled with activities, much of which included quality time but often in a group setting.
There seemed to be a variety of special things I could do with my daughter – take her to get her nails painted, go shopping, go to a play or art show. The older Harper became, the more options on how we could spend quality 1:1 time together only increased. There was a part of me that wanted my 1:1 time with my son to be as “special”.
Somehow in my head I had begun to align spending money with special experiences. I felt a little lost as a mom on how to spend this special 1:1 time with my son. Harper and Gannon are two very different kids. Harper can sit and color for an hour. She can go to a play and sit through the entire show and thoroughly enjoy it. She tells you what she wants and needs. Gannon on the other hand is more reserved with sharing his wants and needs – partly because of age and personality but also partly due to some speech delays. He needs to be constantly moving. He does not sit for anything except for when he is playing with his trucks and trains. I wanted so much to take him to have special experiences outside of our home. I had forgotten that all of the quality 1:1 time with Harper when she was a similar age had been spent reading books, watching birds or airplanes in the air, or having a picnic (sometimes even inside).
One day, last year when my son was on the verge of turning three, I went on run with Gannon in the stroller. It was our standard thing to do. One of the benefits of living in a neighborhood being built is the access to seeing so many types of construction trucks. Our runs would always be an adventure to see how many different types of construction trucks that we could find and ideally to see how many dump trucks would honk their horn (sorry neighbors) for us. It was a blast! It made me feel like a kid inside. Gannon would always have a big smile on his face as well. One particular day he came home and with his very limited speech at the time tried to explain what we saw to the rest of the family. It warmed my heart to see the joy radiate from him and it hit me in that moment that I was spending quality 1:1 time with him. I just had not been recognizing it. It helped me shift how I was thinking about spending quality time with him. All of a sudden, I appreciated everything that I had access to (playgrounds, digging in the dirt, finding bugs, reading stories, etc), many of which I was already doing. I was completely overthinking how to spend special time with him.
Gannon reminded me that special time does not need to cost money. We can increase the quality of our life sometimes by just looking at what is available to us for free AND recognizing it for how special it is. Thanks Gannon for centering me and Happy 4th Birthday!
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