Maximize—Don’t Waste—Those Little Spaces of Time With Your Kids

A friend of mine looked at my calendar one day and said, “How in the world do you fit all of that into each week?” I replied that sometimes I simply don’t, but I always try my best!

As my children grow older, we grow busier. New interests sprout, and the only way to find out if these interests will blossom is to dig a little deeper. That often means adding another sport, hobby or club to our garden of activities. For many parents who face these same challenges, we find ourselves making quick trips here and there filled with little spaces of time as we wait for an activity to end. Or we sit in not one, but two carpool lines at two different schools, two times a day!

Since there is no end in sight to this haphazard schedule for our family anytime soon, I’ve decided to maximize—not waste—those little spaces of time throughout my family’s day.

My 10-year-old son wakes up early every morning—early enough to see his big brother off to middle school. Meanwhile, my 7-year-old daughter sleeps in as late as possible. This is the time of day my younger son shares his thoughts with me—about a story he’s writing, a book he’s reading, a sport he enjoys or friends he hangs out with. This is time well spent that we will never get back.

My 10-year-old is also on the safety patrol team at his elementary school, so we drop him off 15 minutes before the carpool line starts rolling. That’s 15 minutes I have with my daughter alone. Lately, I’ve used that time to read aloud to her. Other times, I fix her hair or we just have a good mom-daughter chat.

In the afternoon, I wait in a long, winding carpool line to pick up my 12-year-old at middle school. I often work on a freelance writing project or read a book before the line starts moving—and get quite a bit done during this time. But when my son gets in the car, the real quality time begins. We spend the drive home talking about his day. Sometimes he complains about his homework or a bully, other times he boasts about a good grade or funny experience. I wouldn’t trade these talks for the world. After all, I have only six years left with him before he heads off to college.

During my oldest son’s weekly viola lesson, my younger two bring books, markers and paper so they can spend this time working on stories or drawings. My only rule: no electronics. I don’t mind if they bring them in the car, but we use the 30-minute lesson to have quality creative time.

And just this morning, I wrote the first half of this blog in the carpool line, and the second half awaiting the arrival of my husband’s flight at the airport. I guess making good use of my time often involves having a laptop on hand!

It’s so easy to make a phone call during the drive home from school, or turn up the radio as you drive to an activity. Why not embrace the little spaces of time throughout your day to enhance the relationships you have with those who matter most to you. It really makes a difference, even when you don’t think it does. I asked my oldest if he liked our “quality time” together after school each day. He just rolled his eyes and said “Sure, Mom.” But when I glanced over at him to see if his expression matched his tone, I saw the same smile on his face he used to get when he was 3 years old, driving trains around his train track. And that was all the confirmation I needed.

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