It’s inevitable: having an 11 month old who doesn’t nap means that I don’t have a lot of time to spend one-on-one with B. When Liam was very little, he napped for a few hours every day, and that gave Benjamin and I time to do things together: read, color, build things, play. As Liam has gotten older, his nap has gone away, and now much of my play time with Benjamin is now shared play time with Liam.
Much of the time, he doesn’t mind. I’ve gotten better at finding things for all of us to do together (like playing ball, which Liam is amazingly adept at) but I miss the one-on-one time with Benjamin, and I think he misses it, too. Sibling rivalry has started cropping up more and more, although he still loves Liam (he tells me so) and is still very affectionate and caring towards him. I’m grateful that our reduced playtime hasn’t turned him against Liam entirely, but I know it’s something I need to address before it creates larger resentment.
I’ve been trying, lately, to do just that. I’ve planned times for B & I to go out, to the park, to the movies (Dan & Liam ended up coming with us), or to stay in and play Wii — special things for he and I to do together where he can have my (relatively) undivided attention. I’ve been putting a lot of effort in, but frankly, it hasn’t been working out. It’s nice to spend that time with him, but it ends up feeling forced and even a little frustrating, sometimes, because it doesn’t go quite as I imagine.
This morning, Dan was putting Liam down for a nap and I was hanging out with B, who was watching tv. B wanted to go in his room to play, and wanted me to come, too. I was exhausted, and honestly felt like sitting and watching tv instead, but, I agreed to go with him. Once we got there, he wanted to set up his train tracks and play with his trains. For the first few minutes, I played along, without my heart really being in it, thinking about what I had to do today and feeling tired, but then I got caught up in his enthusiasm, and we put tracks together, switched trains around, had races, built tunnels, built bridges. We played for an hour or so while Dan got Liam down and then while Liam slept. It was fantastic: exactly what I’ve been looking for.
And then, it hit me: I don’t need to force this one-on-one time to happen. It’s fine for me to plan something “special” from time to time for us to do together, but it’s not the “specialness” of the activity that makes the time so valuable. B & I have lots of things we enjoy doing together: playing trains, playing ball, coloring with chalk, reading stories. All I have to do is make the space in my day for those things, which we already share, to happen. It isn’t what we do that’s important, it’s the fact that we have the chance to do it.
He starts preschool next week, and between being in school for half the day, coming home, having lunch and taking a nap, I feel like I’m hardly going to see him at all. I’m going to get less time with him, but it doesn’t mean we’re less important to each other. I have to make sure that I’m making time for us to spend together, because I don’t want to miss out on the precious moments of playing trains or coloring with chalk. That’s the most important part of my day.