Parenting in the Fast Lane

Today my nearly-seven-year-old son showed me his first loose tooth. For one short second tears came unwillingly to my eyes as I recalled the time a spoon clinked against his first tooth when he was a baby. That was just yesterday, wasn’t it? Where did all of these years go? How did my baby become a sports enthusiast, an excellent reader in two languages, and keep trying to solve the math problems at the end of the arithmetic book?

Despite the sleepless nights and endless weekends, their childhood flies by with incomprehensible speed. The demands of modern life often dictate a two-income family just to make ends meet. Although appliances like the microwave and dishwasher are designed to save us time, we are constantly running ahead just to stay in place!

How do find quality time when there is a relatively small quantity of time we can spend with our children? Where can we take a break from the vast lane, and reconnect with those that mean the most to us?

Do you know how children spell the word ‘love‘? T-I-M-E.

If you are extremely busy, it is essential that you choose regular, specific time slots to spend an uninterrupted five to fifteen minutes with each child.

* If your child is an early riser, a few minutes together in the morning, prior to starting the getting-breakfast-and-dressed routine will have an enormous effect on the tone of his day.

* Immediately when she returns home from school is a great time to reconnect and express your love for your daughter.

* If you have different bedtimes for children of various ages, spending time with the child who stays up later right after the younger one has been put to bed will make him feel special and the bonding more focused.

* When putting multiple children to bed at the same bedtime, choose a different kid each night that can tiptoe out of bed and share a glass of water with you for a few minutes.

These are times that children are very receptive to their parents’ emotions. Expressing your love and pride in your child will definitely make him more cooperative and loving.

No matter what time works best for your family, you will yield tremendous dividends by investing in quality time on a consistent basis.

Which times work best for you?


  1. I just printed out this article and hung it on the fridge- it’s really what I needed!

    For the past few months I’ve been working 2 jobs, and I’ve been realizing that I hardly ever spend real ‘quality time’ with any of my children individually.

    Thanks, Ellen for sharing these important thoughts, I’m going to make some changes starting TODAY.

  2. I remember when my mother took me out to do errands with her- without any of my 4 siblings- just me, and I felt like a total PRINCESS!

    I do the same with each of my three daughters- but not often enough- I have to get more focused.

  3. Leslie says:

    Y’know, everything these days has shortcuts, like microwaves, airline flying, etc… and there’s still no shortcuts to building relationships!!

  4. Jamie Sperling says:

    This is a great article, but right when everyone comes home from school is also when I come home from work and it’s so hectic I cannot possibly spend time with each child (I have 3), although it makes sense to reconnect then. I need to figure out a consistent time that will work for us, thanks Ellen:)

  5. The sad truth is that when our children are grown, they will remember twenty moments of anger for every sweet memory of love. Mathematically speaking, we’ve gotta have the quality-times outnumber the non-quality-times by at least 400% just to break even in their memories! (math genius are welcome to correct me!)

  6. It’s a challenge with 4 kids, but we’re trying to implement that as best we can. One child will be picked to be the helper when one parent goes on an errand in town. And our oldest definitely enjoys those 30 minutes he spends with us after the little ones are in bed!

  7. I’m trying a new routine this week of waking up at 5am well before my 4 and 2 yr old. That way I can get some tasks out of the way to not be so rushed when they do wake up and need to get ready for the day. I can also totally focus on them instead of rushing around. Wish me luck on staying with it. This is my second day at it!

  8. Carrie I’m sure your oldest feels special as a result of his special “jobs”! Isn’t it amazing how much they love time alone with us?

    My five-year-old, Jacob, has a 50-page reading booklet for school that should be finished over several weeks. He was balking at doing it in the afternoons, so now I do a couple of pages with him during “hugs-&-kisses-time” after putting him to bed- and boy, is he anxious to do lots of pages then!

    Woo-Hoo, Kim:-) Congratulations! That is a real dedicated commitment to your children… as waking up early is not the simplest thing for most of us parents.

    LOTS & LOTS of luck, please keep us posted regarding how this new endeavor goes… your children are lucky to have you!

  9. Thanks for another eye opener. Zack is growing up so fast and I’m having a very hard time dealing with that right now. I need to slow down and when he ask me to feed him his breakfast(few and far between request) I need to do it. I also need to start reading to him at night at bedtime again. I’m so tired by the time I get home from work at night I don’t want to do anything but sit there. I comute 45min to an hour each way to work. I’m also thinking of finding a job closer to home, even though I love my current job

  10. Lisa, I always appreciate your refreshing honesty with yourself in your comments!

    Think about that old fable regarding a 2 men who were carrying heavy sacks up a mountain. One man was complaining and sluggish, while the other guy was happy and dancing to the peak. The sad man questioned the other as to his positive attitude about carrying a sack of rocks up a mountain. The happy man answered, “I’m carrying a sack of diamonds I just discovered to my home!”

    It’s all in your perspective- when you appreciate the diamond in your child, the effort of child-rearing is lessened. (provided that you’ve been taking proper care of yourself- I’ll cover that in another article!)

  11. This is a lovely article. The only addition I might like to see is to be sure parents understand that the “power hour” of the 1980’s fashion has been superceeded by “QUANTITIES of quality time”.

    It isn’t enough to only spend 15 minutes of focused time with your child each day. Your child needs LOTS of eye-to-eye time with you, LOTS of hugs, LOTS of kisses, LOTS of reminders that this child is the most important person in the world to you and your spouse. Don’t let yourself be so busy you forget who’s really important in your life.


  12. Yup, Mary! Lots & lots & lots & lots!

  13. Thanks, Ellen. This is just what I needed!

  14. Couldn’t agree more…this applies to dad’s, too! They get short changed a lot of times because they are off at work while we are home with the little ones.

  15. Our two little ones are on different schedules which allows me to spend time alone with each. Soon after I am up, my 18 month old daughter wakes up allowing for mommy time before her brother gets out of bed. In the evenings, after I put her down, my three year old son and I get some time. I agree with Susan that this is important for dads, and wish that my husband could have the same!

  16. quality time is to love your teenager
    before you know it …it could be too late
    to love them despite how angry they make you
    despite the horrible words that can come out
    of their mouthes in anger/frustration.
    Give yourself permission to make them little
    children again…that’s what they really want.
    They really aren’t as ready as they tell you
    they are.It works…they need to be reminded
    that you love them no matter what they have done..impulsively.

  17. We have a 4year old child and an infant. My oldest has been acting out because he is use to getting our undivided attention. This is really what I needed to hear to open my eyes. It is one thing to tell them you love them but to spend the time showing it-that is what they really crave. Thanks!

  18. I love to dote on my little man. I like to give him a back massage. He asoultly adores a back rub. I surprised him the other day and brought hi home a hot fudge sunday with whipped cream and a cheery on top. He loves when I surprise him and give him extra special attention..

  19. Natalie Valles says:

    And remember too that the teens need this time. IF you don’t spend time with them, someone else/thing will. I say this as a teacher of highschoolers. I spend a lot of time with this age group and I’m sad to see so many who are sad. I don’t personally have teens yet, but I was a parent, so to speak, to my siblings during that time of my life and didn’t really get to be one. I make it a point to know my students as much as they’ll let me. Many times, maybe more than you know, kids run things by me before they do their parents–I’ve heard the I’m pregnant, I hate school, as well as the good news–I won, look, I’ve brought up my grades, I got invited… No matter what it is–I feel bad and it guides me as a parent because I’m noticing that parents, in too many instances, seem to be spending less and less time with kids. I’ve been working in the high schools for about 15 years now and if you multpily that out, its hundreds of kids! I was actually shocked to find so many who do not eat with family even once a week, who go home to an empty home–till late in the night, even those whose parents don’t come home at night and have them getting little ones out in the morn–thus they are late to school, tired and not fed themselves. Its happening and we need to speak up about it. I can’t even express how sad I am when I (knowingly) ask certain questions to a parent at meetings when kids are in trouble and so forth–as friends, we need to help each other keep our kids first. That means spending time to show them they matter, you want them, love them and want to be a part of them. Parenting never ends–and teens need a parent as much as a tot does.

  20. Natalie Valles says:

    Please ignore all the typos on that last posting–I’ve a baby in my lap! (It is embarassing though!)

  21. Natalie: never mind that the same thing happened to me earlier, you should have seen what I posted in a forum!

    Great article Ellen, especially that nugget – children spell love t-i-m-e.

    My three year old is struggling with having a new brother. She’s started doing baby talk again, sometimes she wets her pants. I try to have lots of special time with her to try to let her know I don’t love her any less. Doesn’t always happen :-(, but I try. You can imagine how tired I am at the end of the day!

  22. rainbowstroller says:

    lovely article!
    wesley is growing up so fast!
    here works mealtinmes (I cook a lot together with my son) and mornings before school the best as quality time. since I took that time, I found that we have connected even better.

  23. Mom to four Special Kids says:

    I love these articles, but would REALLY love to see some articles related to raising disabled children. I have four kids, two of whom have moderate developmental disabilities. The other two have adhd – severe. I am constantly running into problems because even when I cannot work – which is becoming more and more frequent due to my youngest’s agression – I am hyerfocused on the little one who is almost 6 years old. This results in bad behavior from the my 9 year old and sometimes in the 14 and 18 year olds as well. However, since the youngest one has severe language deficits and self injurious behaviors, I don’t have a choice. My husband is in the military, and I don’t have any help. In addition to that, I am completely socially isolated – my autistic daughters “look” normal, and making friends is out of the question at this point due to the types of comments I run into – i.e. – just give them to me for a week, I will straighten them out, or I don’t believe it medicating children – you are simply parenting with pills – I have yet to run into anyone who didn’t jusge us. When dh comes home from deployment, hopefully I can connect with other parents at a support meeting.

    I have two questions, How do I as a mother who REALLY NEEDS to get out of the house and work to feel successful and to get a break, try to be at home, as it is looking like will be necessary, and stay sane…. some parents just aren’t hardwired (and I was raised by a feminist workaholic haha) to stay at home. Unfortunately there simply aren’t any day care facilities equipped to handle autistic children.

    Secondly, do you know of any way to clone myself (just kidding) but really, how to make sure that each child is safe, and also feels loved. Again, finding any type of babysitting or care for an autistic child, is next to impossible, otherwise, I would be more than willing to get a sitter so that I could take them out individually….

    Feel free to email me if you have anything!!!!

  24. any advice for large families? i have 8 kids, and it seems impossible to give them 15 minutes individually each day … no matter how much i want to!

  25. Chiquita says:

    I have started a ritual.
    When my son and I get home (from work and school) we “get comfortable”. It is about 10-15 minutes of wind down time. We do what we have to do to get comfortable. I change my clothes, he takes of his shoes and connects with his toys.

    After winding down we “do homework” for about 10-15 minutes, then he is free to play and I am free to prepare dinner. After eating dinner together with no TV and no phone calls (we’re free to have a conversation), then it’s off to the bath, story-time and bed. These activities are not rushed but are adjusted to our rhythm which is dictated by how much time we really need to spend with each other. Sometimes I need more than he does (smile).

    After that, the rest of the evening belongs to MAMA!

    It is really about the routine. This works for me and my only child, a 3 1/2 year old boy.