I don’t know exactly when we began doing it, but for the past several years, my wife and I have been scheduling one-on-one time with our three children. Once a month my wife spends a couple of hours each weekend, one on one, with one of our children. I do the same the next month, and we just alternate months. We have three kids, so that’s three weekends (and on the fourth weekend, Mel and I go on a date).
Ultimately, the child picks what we do. Before COVID-19, we might go ice skating, or swimming at the pool, or to see a movie. It’s something our children have always really looked forward to, but ever since things got locked down because of COVID-19, it seems like this one-on-one time has taken on a new level of importance.
Sure, there isn’t as much to do outside of the house at the moment. Most of the time, we just end up finding a room that’s unoccupied and streaming a movie together. Two weeks ago, I took my 13-year-old on a drive around town so he could play Pokémon Go. But it’s not what we’ve been doing on these outings that matters anyway; it’s the fact that it’s been giving my children something to look forward to, and it’s giving them time to chat with someone. With all the stress of learning from home, and not being around friends, and living through a pandemic, this is pretty important — particularly with my oldest two, who are 11 and 13.
Last weekend I was scheduled to spend time with my 11-year-old daughter, Norah, and she decided to watch the high school musical “Zombies” on Disney Plus. Before the movie, we were driving to pick up a food order from Target, and listening to the “Zombies” movie soundtrack. She knew every song, which kind of surprised me considering she claimed to have never seen the movie. I asked her about that, and she gave me this very simple response, “I’ve been saving it.”
“For what?” I asked.
“To watch it with you,” she said.
I don’t know how long she’d been wanting to watch that movie, and I don’t know how long she’d been listening to the songs. But what I do know is that when she said she’d been saving it, she gave me this bashful smile, and it seemed clear that she wanted nothing else but to watch this movie with her father. The real kicker was, this was the most anticipation and excitement I’d seen in her eyes for months. Like all kids, this has been a difficult time for her, so it was a refreshing change to see her excitement.
Going back to the aforementioned outing with my 13-year-old to hunt for Pokémon: We started out by hitting up KFC. Once again, this was his suggestion. Then we drove around our small little Oregon town, his face glued to his phone, giving me directions, as we searched out for the coveted “shiny” Pokémon. We found Pokémon gyms, and we participated in Pokémon raids, and I’ll just say, I had no idea what we were doing exactly. But I wasn’t really in it for the Pokémon. I was in it for the conversation. As we drove, we talked. We talked about how much he missed his friends, and we talked about how hard it was to learn from home, and how he was tired of Zoom, and wished we had been able to go swimming at the community pool this summer. We talked about soccer practice, and that he hopes he will get to play again next summer. We talked about his best friend, and how he’s worried about him because he’s been depressed recently.
It was just my son and I, chatting as we drove. He had a good vent. And when you’re dealing with a teenager, getting them to open up like that is no easy task, and I don’t know if it would have happened with anyone else in the car. By the end of our time hunting for Pokémon, I could tell that he’d been able to get a lot off his chest, and it just felt good to let him tell me about his problems.
As a family, we are all we have right now. We work and learn from home, and my kids need someone to talk to. Setting aside this time with them one-on-one has really given them the opportunity to open up. It’s given them something to look forward to during a dark time, and it really isn’t all that hard of an investment. Just an hour or two on the weekends can make an unbelievable difference.
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