Recently, my 4 year-old daughter and I have been doing Special Time every day for around 10-20 minutes (lately its either before bedtime or after I’ve fetched her from preschool on days when I don’t have to go back to the office). We also do some Playlistening (mostly rough and tumble and cuddles) in the mornings before we do anything else.
A few Fridays ago I was feeling really rotten after a long and stressful week at work and I really was not in the mood to be parenting! I had the afternoon off work and it was just me and my daughter and it wasn’t going terribly well. My daughter was cranky and I was restimulated and it was all I could do to stop myself from racing out the front door and running away (with the thought of the entire weekend looming ahead)!
Then my daughter suggested Special Time. It hadn’t even occurred to me to offer it (that was the kind of state I was in). At first I groaned inwardly but then I realised the genius of it and my whole attitude shifted. Then my daughter said, “I need Special Time right now because I’m feeling cross.” I was able to be present, offer her warm and loving attention and she was able to reconnect with me and herself. Initially, she was really grumpy in her Special Time, and because I could just be there and listen to her wholeheartedly for those few minutes, she was able to shrug that off and move into playing with delight and enthusiasm. By the time we had done 20 minutes of Special Time we were both feeling bright and happy and connected! It changed the whole afternoon and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
That weekend we did an hour of Special Time both on Saturday and Sunday. I have never been able to manage that amount of time before with such ease. And since then we have made those longer weekend Special Times a tradition. What a difference it makes to the weekend. As a single parent I get pretty worn out when it’s just me and my daughter for long stretches of time. Weekends are the hardest. These long Special Time sessions counter the heaviness of the days stretching ahead when all I feel like doing is curling up and taking a break. It’s counter intuitive that putting more energy and love into parenting when you’re feeling exhausted can turn things around – but that’s exactly what it did! Hooray for Special Time!
It is clear to me that my daughter would not have asked for Special Time on that Friday afternoon if we weren’t in a regular practice of it. In fact, I’ve noticed that when we stop doing it for a while, she stops asking for it. I cannot praise the genius of Special Time enough. It’s clear that it makes a difference in my child’s life but what is equally rewarding is noticing how it makes my life as a parent so much lighter and more fun!
When we are doing Special Time consistently, our relationship is more intimate, loving and co-operative. My daughter is more relaxed in all areas of her life. There have been times when we have stopped doing it (for instance, when we are on holiday and staying in someone else’s house and our schedule gets interrupted). During those times I can feel the difference. Even though we’re on holiday and I’m with my daughter every single moment of every day, even that kind of quality time cannot replace Special Time.
What I have discovered more recently is the profound effect that Special Time has on me. I feel happier, more relaxed and I feel good about myself! The consistent practice of Special Time has made more of an impact on me emotionally than I could have imagined. I had always thought that Listening Partnership time was the most important listening tool for me as a parent, and I have certainly gained tremendously from it. But I am now convinced that Special Time deserves credit for freeing me of feelings of guilt and regret as a parent, and bringing back a childlike zestfulness into my life and my family! Special Time has done more to re-energise me than any amount of rest could have done!
~ Liesl Orr, Johannesburg, South Africa