It doesn't matter how I say it, or the number of times I say it…I still have five kids.
To me, that is a lot of kids.
Some families have many, many more children, and I also realize that some people don't have that many kids at all, but at the end of the day we are all tired mamas. Mamas who feel like we have been peed and pooped on, and talked back to, as we fight the battles of wills and conquer limitless homework assignments, who have packed one too many lunches and parted too many pig tails and washed too many loads of laundry to count.
But I have been convicted lately.
Josh, my husband, and I try desperately to date each of our children. But with the number of children, and the life activities that tend to crowd in, there doesn't ever seem to be enough time. I'm not sure we will EVER feel like we have enough time. These children, these people, these little beings who have been entrusted to us, all need something different. And it seems to me that they all need different things at different times.
I've quickly learned that I will never be able to be everything my kids need (that is why we have a Savior), but I can prioritize the time I DO have with them individually.
Time (and life) will not always allow for these opportunities, but more often than not WE are the ones who dictate WHAT we make time for, and I want my kids to remember a mama who didn't mind a tag-along to the grocery store. Or maybe it was just reading a book on the hammock together. It could simply be doing what they ask me to do, without forgetting (which is one of the most difficult things for this forgetful mom).
Right now I have had a lot of time to capitalize on my one-on-one time with #5 while #'s 1-4 are at school. I've never had this kind of time with just one child and I LOVE it. While I am alone with him I want him to feel like he is my priority, like he is my favorite 2-year-old on the planet!
Each child loves and accepts love differently. Find the way that shouts love to THAT child and master it.
Here are some practical ways to find time to play favorites with your children:
Jude, my 2-year-old, is easy. He is at the age where ANY outing is special. For him, he loves quality time. Our small town enables us to run errands with just a stroller and my jogging shoes. We can even stop by the park on the way home from the post office if time allows. Pack a lunch and we've got a whole morning of fun while being productive at the same time! His favorite past-time is to “cuddo ah couch.” That boy would cuddle on the couch with me all day if I had the time for it. Also, a quick book before nap time is a favorite, but I can guarantee that his absolute favorite is when I make eye contact while communicating with him (which means putting the phone down).
My two 5-year-olds are a different story. Micaiah loves for me to watch him play. Just being with him while he colors or builds a train track or looks at a book shows him love. Alethia is a little different. She yearns for physical touch so it doesn't matter what we are doing, if I gently touch her cheek while talking to her or rub her back while sitting next to her she feels special. She always wants to be close, so bringing her into my everyday shouts love to her.
Our 8-year-old is a mix of everything, I think. He is by far our most needy child, but by far one of the easiest to please. We can turn anything into a “special” event or an exciting adventure! For him, it's all about making him feel like he is included, he is chosen to be included, and it's gonna be awesome.
Areyna, the preteen 9-year-old-going-on-16 needs to feel respected and listened to. No distractions. Full attention. This means placing myself into her situations and walking with her through them.
Don't overstress about it, but be proactive and put your whole heart into it.
Don't be afraid to play favorites with each of your children. You'll be surprised how far those little moments will go!