By Gail Jackson
When you have several children it may seem impossible to find time to spend with each child individually. We knew this one-on-one attention was extremely important and looked for various ways to accomplish it.
Grandparents were great in allowing each child to share time as “the only child.” Dave’s parents would take each child individually. They did simple things–like listen to them (with undivided attention), teach them to play games, let them bake cookies and help weed the garden. They didn’t give them things, they gave of themselves.
In our family, each family member chose the dinner menu on their birthday. Some of the menus were quite nutritionally unbalanced, but that was okay. Jeremy often chose tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with catsup. Later, as he got older, he changed to orange rolls (like cinnamon rolls) and hot chocolate!
I saw a red “You are Special” plate to be set at a child’s place at dinner time on special occasions.
This plate is for more than birthdays! It can be used in recognition of a child’s personal accomplishment.
It wouldn’t have to be a plate; it could be a place mat or place card, or a special glass or cup.
Seasonal and holiday flags are popular decorator items for flying outside the home. Why not have each child design their own flag? You can recreate the design or drawing on fabric to fly on special occasions. They don’t have to be elaborate. Permanent markers and fabric paints work quickly, easily, and inexpensively. These simple yet individual attentions do a lot for a child’s self-image. They celebrate each child as an important member of the family.
As great as special occasions are for one-on-one attention, regular and frequent one-on-one sessions are even greater. “Nights up” is what we settled on for our family. During the week, each child had an assigned night when they stayed up one-half hour later than usual, spending time with either mom or dad When they were all young this time was after the others had gone to bed. As they grew, the older ones would read, bathe, or do their own thing while a younger sibling had their night up, then later reappear for their turn.
We played or did whatever that child wanted to do on that particular night. We played many games, innumerable times, sometimes over and over and over. (I hate Chutes and Ladders! You are finally almost finished and bam, back to the bottom to start over.
Naturally, and probably for the very same reason but with different motives, they loved it!)
We crawled around the floor playing with farms and garages and castles, and hid tiny green toy soldiers behind books and chair legs. We colored, painted and played with clay and silly putty. We read. Heidi learned the basics of putting on make-up and fixing hair. She usually wanted to be the “beautifier” and I was always the willing model. It only required me to sit quietly.
I can’t say that Dave and I loved what we did during this time. Often we didn’t even like it. But that was of no importance. Being and doing with one child, all by him or herself, was important. Parenting requires a great amount of time, quite often when you honestly would prefer doing something else.
Our children really looked forward to their night of the week. We tried very hard not to let anything interfere with those times. We knew it was meaningful when they wanted to continue it well into their teens, until school activities and jobs made it no longer possible.
We learned just how important it was a few years ago when we came home to find the following on our answering machine. We think that Luke, then 22, called when he knew we wouldn’t be home. We are not a real demonstrative family and this was an easier way for him to say what he wanted to say: “Thank you for nights up, soccer games, (teaching us) tithing and missionary savings, alligator bread with chocolate chip eyes. I love you guys.”
Gail’s blog is thecreativecheapskate.blogspot.com. Enjoy her practical wisdom and frugal advice every day by subscribing to the blog.