I just returned from a 5-day trip to Orlando with my teenager, a trip I have been looking forward to since the moment he agreed to travel with me. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. We spent five blissful days communicating, hanging out, playing together, and not fighting. He talked to me, he laughed at my jokes, and he shared things with me - all activities that have been missing from our relationship since the onset of puberty.
In part, I have VisitOrlando, the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld to thank for this experience. They organized the trip and picked up the tab for most of our visit. They let my son and I share the magic of Harry Potter World, a real treat since we’d read the books together years ago. They provided the pool that he asked me to swim with him in, the rides we loved, and the shows we swapped opinions about.
But the real credit for this fabulous vacation goes to me and Devin - and the power of one-on-one parenting.
The two of us rarely spend time alone together anymore. His sister is much more likely to request my company, and he’d rather be with his friends than his mother. When he isn’t with his friends or enjoying his treasured alone time, it’s because we’ve wrangled him into a family outing - which means the four of us. I realized this week just how much I haven’t been seeing because I haven’t been seeing Devin on his own.
For one thing, he isn’t near as grown as he looks. Sure, puberty has affected his voice and his height, but his jokes and endless chatter reminded me that he’s still a kid with a not-quite-ripe view of the world. He isn’t near as mature as either of us assumes, which means my expectations of him are probably a little out of whack. It also means he still needs the gentleness and patience of his mom, two things that I’ve struggled to offer when dealing with my teenager recently.
My kid still needs my attention. He no longer asks for it - and even turns it down on a regular basis - but it was obvious that he loved having it while we were away from home. This break from reality allowed me to pay attention to him in a way that had nothing to do with his chores, his grades, his future, or his treatment of his sister. I got to be present without expectations, and he thrived as a result.
It was good. It was so, so good. And a part of me is admittedly feeling guilty to realize how much I haven’t seen in the course of normal life. I’ve been shortchanging him, I think. But I’m grateful for this glimpse and these memories. I’m hoping we can both apply a little bit of what we’ve learned to our not-on-vacation relationship.
If you have more than one child at home, do you make one-on-one time a priority? Do you find that gets harder to do as your kids get older?