The Car Ride That Changed My Perspective Of Parenting
Twenty-five minutes of one-on-one time with my 8 year old was pure magic.
It was a Sunday morning, and my husband and I had played rock paper scissors to determine who got to do the solo drive with our 8-year-old to his football game. The other was sentenced to getting the other kids ready and out the door an hour later to meet us there. Well, I won. But I didn’t realize I had hit the lottery until a bit into the drive. At first, the win was just about getting the less hard task (mostly because it involved three fewer kids). But as it turned out, that 25 minutes of one-on-one time with my 8-year-old was pure magic.
With four kids 10 and under, one-on-one time is virtually non-existent. Well, that’s not entirely true — my 2-and-a-half-year-old gets a lot of it while her older three siblings are in school. But for the others, it’s rare. So the minute we pulled out of the driveway, it was like my 8-year-old son had been granted a special solo at center stage, where he could finally tell me all the things and ask me all the questions without any chaos or interruptions.
First, he actually told me about school: his seat, his classmates, and a million tiny details about his day. I started to ask him things about his classroom, his favorite activities, and recess. “You can ask me more things if you want,” he said, clearly appreciating the fullness of my attention and interest in all of his stuff. Then he talked about the game we were on our way to. He talked about his feelings; how he gets nervous each week before games, and how that feeling goes away once the game starts. I then shared funny stories about my own childhood athletics and we laughed together at the ridiculousness of it all.
He then started to teach me all about football. As a novice myself, I know very little about the game other than the basics. But he knows a ton, it turns out, and was delighted to tell me. He went through all the positions and their jobs. Then he talked about the plays that his team runs, and what everyone’s job is during those plays. And then it was on to professional football. He shared facts about his favorite players and their teams while I asked questions that he eagerly answered.
And as we got closer to our destination, he started asking me questions about my life and my job. He asked me what it’s like to be a mom and what my favorite things are about having four kids. And while I answered, he listened thoughtfully, so invested and interested in my answers. It was the most amazing and enjoyable conversation.
And at that moment, I started to feel sad.
A wave of guilt rushed over me as I realized how much we both needed this car ride. It had been way too long since we had solo time. And of course, his siblings must feel the same way. They all deserve more regular and consistent doses of their mother’s undivided attention. Every kid does. So, with four kids, a job, a house, and a million other little things, how do I make that happen?
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’ve decided that spending my energy feeling guilty does nothing, and planning extravagant one-on-one experiences is unrealistic — and not even necessarily what they actually want. Instead, I’m carving out little pockets of time where I can. I’m putting my phone down while we are sitting on the couch so I can ask thoughtful questions. I’ll take a quick walk around the block with just one, or take the long way home after gymnastics pickup. Individual attention is important, but it doesn’t have to be grand. It can just be a little bit longer-than-average car ride. But it can mean the world, for both of us.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.