Since the birth of our fourth child, I am keenly aware of how limited my one-on-one time is with each of them. I especially notice this with our older kids, who still aren't old and still need Mom.
I know I can never lavish too much attention on our secondborn, Jane, who is 4. Like so many families, our firstborn often runs the show. She's the most advanced, the most vocal and she's accustomed to the spotlight.
It's not unusual for the secondborn to feel overlooked.
These days I'm trying to combat that feeling and be creative about little windows for one-on-one time. It doesn't have to involve a grand outing. Last week I invited Jane to join me for Kate's 2-month wellness check. Jane was elated.
It was such a mundane event: sitting in the waiting room, watching Kate get measured, examined and vaccinated. But that didn't matter. Jane had a ball, relishing her status as the oldest kid.
Afterwards, while Kate slept in her car seat, we stopped at a park and enjoyed 10 minutes of fresh air, just the two of us.
That night, as I tucked Jane into bed, I felt an added closeness to her. I hope she did too.
I'm always looking for opportunities to boost her self-esteem. I cut her hair before Easter, which landed her in my focus. Afterwards, when she checked herself out in the mirror, she smiled broadly and said, "I look so cute!"
And whenever I can, I make a point to look Jane in the eye and listen closely to what she has to say. (It doesn't come out as quickly and clearly as it does with the firstborn, so I have to be deliberate about this.)
Sometimes the simple act of eating together (letting her eat off my plate) or cuddling on the glider makes us feel connected.
But best of all, she is well loved by her grandparents, which helps make up for the times Ted or I may seem less available. Jane has a special bond with both of her grandmas. They just get her.
I was reminded of that as I scrolled through my Easter photos, which capture that precious grandmother-granddaughter relationship.
Never underestimate the power of a grandma's love!
Related reading: 4 under 6
Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and four children in Inver Grove Heights. Read all her posts at mnparent.com/charmed.