At first blush it would seem that my daughter Josephine wouldn’t need one on one time with me considering I am a single mother. We are one on one…A LOT. We we one on one last night during an unfortunate diaper fiasco. We were one on one this morning when she didn’t want to get dressed. We’ll be one on one tonight for dinner too.
We connect so much during the many moments of our day to day lives. However, I like to take special times out just her and I that are very intentional. These times do not have to be earned by her based on behavior. I do not plan these times in advance. They are gifts of time that come about on a day off early from work or a freed hour where an errand was. Most importantly, they are not spent at home.
My favorite place to take my almost two year-old Josephine for a one on one with Mom is a little coffee shop in the downtown of our midwestern city. You may think to yourself, “A two year-old, in a crowded, or even worse, quiet coffee shop…I don’t think so!”. Take a moment to trust me though. I often find that if I treat my daughter as a person and not as a series of symptoms predicted by her age range, she rises to the occasion and surprises me. There are plenty of times she’s just an outright toddler by definition, but most of the time, she’s Jo. If I take her into a public space, make her feel special without spoiling, and converse with her like I would a friend, I see her grow in both language and confidence.
Her pre-school sends a sort of daily wrap-up everyday of what they learned in class and activities they participated in. I like to ask her about these activities in detail since engaging with young children about activities they have or are participating in currently promotes language development. I try to ask open ended questions. “I saw that you learned about farm animals at school today, and that the cow says “Moo”, what do you think a cow does all day?!” It may seem silly in the moment, but I’m instantly gratified when she jabbers back to me in her own bits of language. It lets her know that I am interested in what she learns and does. It also lets her know that I will actively listen to her when she needs to be heard in the future.
There are so many times when I’m doing the dishes, or folding laundry, that I feel her tug on my shirt to tell me something and I know I miss opportunities for communication. Taking Jo out on a one on one also reminds me to be listening whenever I can at home, and to let her in on what I’m doing.
Taking Jo to a public place also teachers her the importance of mutual respect and important manners. We practice”please” and “thank you” when ordering. We also take time to ask the staff how they are doing, and since it is our regular one on one spot they know us! What a wonderful opportunity to share the importance of community and kindness. One “lesson” we often run into when we’re out on our coffee dates is if Jo decides to release a toddler shriek or throw her food. Of course if it becomes a disturbance to other patrons we would leave, however I’ve found that getting very close to Jo, pointing out all the other people at the restaurant, and explaining that this is their time to enjoy their coffee and treats too, reminds her that it is a shared space and her behavior should reflect that. I don’t embarrass her or say that she is embarrassing me. I simply explain that we’re all sharing this space together and that we would be pretty bummed if a cookie or a loud shriek were hurled at us.
These one on ones don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we pack it in early, taking our treats to go. Sometimes Jo isn’t receptive to learning that day and needs a firmer approach. I’ve found as I’ve made these little dates a ritual though, that this happens less and less.
I take some serious time to just stare at my daughter while she eats and chats on these one on ones. They force me to really, deeply pause, and take in every part of her face, and the little whispies of her hair. She shows me in those moments that she is growing quickly, and that I can’t just reserve my stares for one on ones and bedtimes because they’ll go by fast.
These one on ones will also teach her to take the same kind of intentional time with the people in her life she cares for, and it teaches me to take important one on one time within my other relationships and with God.
I encourage anyone reading this to take time out with your little one, or each of your little ones when you snag the chance and see what you discover in them. Intentional time is a true blessing.