We spent the weekend taking my youngest daughter to her first in-season National Hockey League game. We don't have a hockey team here, so we made the four-hour trek to St. Louis to see the Blues play. Her big Christmas present was three tickets to the game.
That's right, she got three tickets -- one for her, and one each for mom and dad. We left big sister at home with the grandparents. We didn't leave our older daughter at home because we don't like her or because she's a terrible traveler. We left her at home because we wanted this trip to be special, one-on-one time with our youngest. (Just so you know we're not leaving our oldest out, she got soccer tickets that don't include her sister.)
We made the trip with a hockey buddy of my daughter's and his family. And we had a fabulous time. When you have more than one child, it's easy to lump your children together as "the kids." We know that our kids have different personalities and different needs, but when life is moving at 100 miles per hour, we tend to think in terms of "the kids would like that" or "that would be tough to do with the kids." In our brains, we begin to think of them almost exclusively as a group.
That's why it's always good to take some time to hang out with your kids individually. I don't know about your kids, but mine often act differently when their sibling is not around. It's like they have two personalities -- the one that comes out when they're part of group and one that comes out when their alone. It's hard to really understand your child if you never get to spend time with him by himself.
Separating your kids and spending some alone time with each one reminds both you and them that you know they are individuals. It helps us focus on their individual personalities and character, and it reinforces the idea that we can't always treat our kids the same.
Jesus knew this. Check out how He treated His disciples. He didn't treat them all the same. There were times in the Gospels when He would speak to just one of them. One of the most notable examples comes in Matthew 16 when Jesus is talking to Peter. Now, Peter was a lot like my daughter in that he was strong-willed and could be difficult, but in this passage, he showed great insight. Peter answered Jesus' question about who He was by saying "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."(Matthew 16:16). Jesus then gave Peter words that He knew Peter would need a short time later. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)
Not too many days later, Peter would deny that He even knew Jesus. Jesus took the time to have a one-on-one conversation with Peter, so He would have Jesus' words in his brain when he realized what he'd done.
One-on-one time with our kids is a great time to follow Jesus' example and encourage them. When we get our kids by themselves, we can use that time to pour encouragement and love into them. That encouragement and love may hold them steady through a rocky time ahead.
Spending one-on-one time with each of your kids is also a good way to get them talking. Even though my daughter had a friend along this weekend, each family had its own hotel room. The window in our hotel room had a small ledge that perfectly fit my daughter's behind. She quickly decided her favorite place in the room was sitting in the window. She climbed up there and gave us a detailed description of what was going on outside. It was a glimpse into the things that fascinate her.
Spending time alone with each child also reminds us of all the things we love about each one. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that my youngest daughter can be strong-willed and difficult. This weekend we were reminded that she's also sweet, kind and fun. I needed that reminder to draw on for the days ahead when she will be stubborn, difficult and rude.
Make some time to spend individually with your kids. Remind yourself of all the reasons you love them. It will make your child feel special and the tough days easier.