My son, my oldest child, is almost four years old, and he’s not the baby anymore. His toddler sister still breastfeeds and requires a lot more attention (and supervision) than her calm, obedient older brother. This is great for me as a stay-at-home mom; but it also means that my son gets left behind sometimes, just because he’s older and can be trusted, forgotten about while his sibling wreaks havoc left and right.

Lately I’ve made more of a conscious effort to get quality one-on-one time with my son. He needs it, and so do I. Here is how to make time for your oldest child.

It’s easy to bond with your kid when they’re breastfeeding, bedsharing, and babywearing. I still do all of those with my daughter and so I feel really connected to her. My son, on the other hand, is independent and has outgrown all of those things. So we have to work harder to get time to be together and focus on each other.

I’ll be honest: there’s no one right way to get to spend one-on-one time with each of your kids. There’s no secret formula. And the more kids you have, the harder it gets.

What worked for us initially was that I would spend time with my son when my daughter was asleep, or when my husband was home and could take her.

My son craves the times when he wakes up before his sister, because then we get to cuddle and whisper in the quiet.

On nights when my husband works past bedtime, I nurse my toddler to sleep and my son patiently waits, knowing that we will read books in his bed with a lantern. Once his little sister is asleep, I cuddle

All those instances are all well and good, but there’s no set, guaranteed Mama and Son time. Those examples above would just happen by chance.

And that’s not good enough.

So I talked to my husband and let him know that we needed to change something in our daily routine. It wouldn’t have to be major, but it needed to be consistent.

And then I had a great idea.

How to Make Time for Your Oldest Child - Real Simple Mama

I’d been wanting to start some easier chapter books with my son, for us to read together a little at a time. We decided that this might be the perfect way for me to get some much-needed cuddling and bonding time, my son and I.

Now we all have dinner in the evening as a family, clean up, and maybe watch part of a movie together.

But then Kiddo and I get our book, sit on the couch under quiet light, and read a few chapters. Just him and I. No chores, no screens, no distractions. Even ten minutes like this is enough to help us really appreciate each other and connect as mother and son.

An added bonus here is that my husband now gets one-on-one time with his daughter; this isn’t really common because Daddy is only home for a few hours in the evening before it’s time to put his son to bed. And my toddler truly is a Daddy’s girl! So they enjoy time together too, usually in the playroom or in our bedroom, as we all wind down at the end of our evening.

My daughter isn’t able to sit and listen to the longer stories, but my son is intrigued by the more intricate storylines. He asks questions, I pick out some random sight words for him to read, and he learns new vocabulary.

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I had kept some of my childhood favorites for my future children, and I was so excited to introduce my son to some of these books! The first one we chose together was The Twits by Roald Dahl, and we cracked up every evening. Roald Dahl is one of my all-time favorite authors; since then we’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and Danny the Champion of the World. Of course I have big plans for other stories like Matilda, and Fantastic Mr. Fox too! The other thing we found was that there is a Harry Potter version for children, which is simplified and illustrated. Methinks that will be a fantastic birthday present… it’s never too early to make my kid into a Potterhead!

How to Make Time for Your Oldest Child (because they deserve it and so do you!) - Real Simple Mama

Of course, with time my son and I will probably go on “dates” like to a movie or ice cream. Right now though, while his sister is still so young and breastfeeding, I prefer to stay at home in case something happens or she needs me. It will be really awesome as the kids grow, that Daddy and I can each take one child for some special one-on-one time! I know I never really had that regularly with my parents, and I want to make it a priority for my own children.

Being the oldest child sucks sometimes because you feel like you always have to “wait” when your younger sibling needs something. This is especially true when you’re a low maintenance preschooler, and your younger sibling is high maintenance. I’m trying to combat that as much as I can, and sharing my love of reading with my son is something we both need.

And a side benefit: I feel like my son and I really respond better to each other now. It’s hard on those long days at home together, when I get frustrated that he’s running in the house again or not washing his hands. When we get time to snuggle and just be Mama and her boy again, all that animosity melts away. It helps us reset and appreciate each other.

I’m so grateful to have some alone time with each of my kids! Please let me know your thoughts, and what works for your family! And as always thanks for sharing!

How to Make Time for Your Oldest Child - Real Simple Mama