Five Ways of Spending Quality Time with Your 8-Year-Old.
All mothers go through a juggling art while managing work, family and umpteen things. When my son was born 8 years ago, I instantly became this multi-tasking superwoman. I went through a well planned day which included getting up early and getting myself and baby ready for office & daycare respectively, dropping baby at daycare, reaching work and then leaving work on time, getting back home after picking up the baby, then all the bathing and cleaning up, then dinner and then sleep. If something came up at the last minute, everything went off the track.
I remember doing this schedule for so long and then I remember feeling guilty about getting caught up in the functional schedule and hence, I started putting in “a walk in the park” as part of my weekend routine so I shared some fun time with my son as well. I so wanted to spend some one on one time with my son, read to him, listen to him, play with him but I was exhausted all the time. And when I was not exhausted, I was not able to focus. I am ashamed to admit it but yes, I would easily get distracted and couldn’t just unwind and stay in the moment with him.
With Covid related lockdowns coming in, we were finally spending a lot of time together as a family under a single roof. Before Covid, we saw each other only during the morning and evening on weekdays and it was a blur of activities. Come lockdown and things significantly changed. Of course, WFH and Online schooling had its different challenges, but I appreciated the fact that we were in calling/touching distance from each other most of the time. And while spending undisturbed time together hasn't increased as much as it should have, we have managed to carve out some personal space for ourselves.
I had to train myself to give him defocused attention, it didn’t come naturally to me. But I didn’t go hard on myself. It’s easy to be distracted when you’ve been managing a lot of things for a long time. Here’s what I have learned and here are the small things we’ve figured out for ourselves for quality time together.
- Reading: My son enjoys reading Tintin these days and something he just asks me is if he can read a few pages to me and I can read a few pages to him. We have fun reading out aloud and finding who can enact “Blistering Barnacles” and “Thundering Typhoons” of Captain Haddock the best. In hindsight it just takes 15-20 minutes and it’s such a fun thing considering I also enjoy Tintin a lot.
We also have times when I’ll be reading a book of my choice and he’ll be reading his. There are constant interruptions with at least 1 question every 2 min. I have learned to tell him (guilt-free) that Mommy must focus on this book so he can ask his questions together after we are both done. It’s a great way to probably teach them to have patience and wait for their turn.
- Walks: With Covid lockdown, kids had to compromise a lot on their physical play. So walking kind of doubles up as an exercise too. We take a walk in the neighborhood park, sometimes we just walk around the residential layout, sometimes we walk on the apartment terrace. We talk about our likes and dislikes; we have a little word game and sometimes we just walk quietly together. Here are some of the products your kid can enjoy outdoors.
- Cooking: A great, great way to bond but I must admit tests my patience to the limits. We had taco nights one Saturday, entirely conceptualized and planned by my son. He wrote out the ingredients required, I helped source it, I helped with the dough for the taco, he rolled it out, I helped cook it, he cut the soft vegetables like lettuce, tomato with a relatively blunt knife. I helped with the harder ones which required a bigger and sharper knife. We both assembled it. Here are some pretend play toys your kids can play before getting into doing real chores.
My quantum of work was the same, maybe higher because I had to clear up the additional mess, but we loved it. I won’t encourage this every weekend but maybe once or twice a month is good. Other than that, I make sure he does all the small stuff like clearing plates, making milk (on an induction cooker) and rolling out rotis. I don’t know if he’ll turn out as a self-sufficient, empathetic adult even after I make all these efforts, but I sure am going to try.
- Cuddling in: Me and my husband take turns to cuddle with him for 10-15 min before he falls asleep at night and he always wants to talk while I am literally half asleep. However, when we had the talk it was such an eye-opener for me. I got to hear about his friends, and it was in one of these talks that the subject of “F word” also came up. I am a stickler for good language, but kids do pick these words up from movies or from outside. I remember explaining to him not to use it but also explaining to him the meaning of it because he kept insisting “but what does it mean?”. Might as well hear it from me than from anyone else.
- Board games: From Snake & Ladder, Ludo to Battleship, we have started playing board games. We are not as regular at it as we’d like to be, it’s something we need to work upon but yes, it’s a step in the right direction.
You might have noticed everything above is completely gadget-free. It must be, there’s no middle path when it comes to the use of gadgets during these personal times. Gadgets are very useful, no doubt about it, but they overwhelm us if we don’t control them. A simple WhatsApp message will end up in randomly looking at the phone for 15 min, and it just adds up. And then you’ll regret the time which has gone flying by.
I hope all parents out there (including me) get to enjoy some personal quality time with our kids without feeling flustered or guilty. When in doubt, just learn to go with the flow and not overthink. As the kids grow, there could be more age-appropriate activities, would love to hear suggestions in the comments below.
Click here for 10 Craft Ideas and Fun Things to Do for Children’s On Days Off.
Deepthi Elizabeth Varghese is a media professional, who is based out of Bangalore. She has an 8-year-old son. She recently found time to rekindle her love for writing.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.