Queer Mom Chronicles: How Do You Spend Quality Time With Your Kids?

With my son getting older and busier, getting to spend time together has become one of our major challenges. Even though he likes to have time and space to himself, he still wants to hang out with me, and I feel like I need to take advantage of that as much as I can before he begins to think I’m annoying and uncool and doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore.

We spent a lot of time together when he was a preschooler. I worked from home, and he didn’t go to school all day. After I’d finish work, or if we had a free day during the week, we’d go for a walk and grab Starbucks or get on the bus and go to Target or The Grove. Sometimes, we’d just hang out at home and have a dance party. He was little, and it was easy to entertain him back then. He was just as content to go get a treat as he was to take his tablet and cuddle with me on my bed while I worked. Getting to be around him and be there for him is one of the main reasons I work remotely. Over extended breaks from school, he’ll curl up with me on the couch and use his tablet, reminding me of the old days when he was small.

Now that it’s not just the two of us, quality time obviously looks a little different. My partner and I got together right before lockdown, and while it was stressful, we had nothing but quality time. I think it really gave us a way to solidify our family unit. Since we couldn’t leave the house, quality time looked like playing a lot of boardgames. His favorites were Chutes & Ladders, Candyland, and Monopoly Jr., which I always joked gave him a crash course in capitalism. He and my partner played hours of Backgammon, which he got the hang of quickly thanks to his love of numbers and strategy.

Sometimes I miss those days when we didn’t really have anything to do other than be around each other. It wasn’t always easy, but I think he’ll be able to look back at the time and say we made the best of it.

My son is genuinely one of my favorite people to hang out with. He’s at an age where he’s really fun and funny. The stuff that comes out of his mouth will sometimes have me falling over laughing. He outgrew his old suit, so we got him a new one, and when he tried it on with a buttondown shirt, the first thing out of his mouth was “I look like I’m going to work!” The laugh that flew out of my mouth, I tell you. We are still laughing about it two weeks later.

Quality time as a family has gotten harder now that my partner works weekends and my son has Saturday commitments twice a month. We don’t always know when that time together is going to happen, so we actively try to find ways to hang out. One thing we’ve done recently is watch a TV show together. We decided to watch Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The episodes drop weekly, so we have prioritized setting aside an hour around the time the new episode drops to watch together. We sit together on the couch, and no one is on their devices for that hour. This is the last week of the show, and I’m so bummed because I’ve genuinely enjoyed getting to have this time together. I may see if there’s another similar style show we can watch next. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!

He has also gotten into video games since we got him a Nintendo Switch a couple Christmases ago. Sometimes he’ll let me challenge him to Just Dance, but he hates when I do better than him. We love to do the dance to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, and he’s determined to beat my high scores. He got Mario Kart this past Christmas, and one of his favorite ways to hang out with me and his stepmom right now is to totally own us at Mario Kart. He’s been playing a ton just so he can kick our asses whenever we play. I mean, to be fair, I suck at video games, and he knows this. My partner is more willing to play with him because she sucks less than I do. I’ll play of course, but I also discovered that playing gives me terrible hand cramps so I don’t really play for very long. But last week, he sat on the couch while I worked and sighed.

“What’s wrong bub?” I asked.
“I just wish there was someone to play with me,” he said.
“If you wait for me to finish, I’ll play with you.”
“Are you sure? What about your hand?” His face clouded with concern.
I smiled. “I can manage one game.”

I grabbed the controller and stared at the screen while I picked out my character (Princess Peach) and racer, and we got to it. As I swerved and swore, he laughed and told me I sucked at the game, but that he was proud of me for trying anyway.

This is everything… I thought to myself.

One-on-one quality time with just me and him isn’t something we do as often, and that made me really sad for a while. I found myself longing for those days when I would suggest a bus ride to Target for no real reason. In the last year, I’ve begun to make an effort to have that time again. At the end of Christmas break, I took him for a mother/son night out. We went to see Migration at the movie theater, had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, got new books at Barnes & Noble, and ended the night with ice cream. When my partner works on Sundays, we’ll sit together on the couch and watch Friends or Say Yes to the Dress.

My son still wants to spend time with me, and I’m really trying to take advantage of it. He likes to cuddle with me in bed or sit on the couch while I take a nap. We can sit and watch my favorite 90s TV shows together — his favorites are Living Single and Frasier currently. He tries to explain Minecraft or Roblox to me, and I eagerly listen even if I don’t remember it. I’m just glad he wants to let me into his world a little bit.

You never know the things your kids are going to remember about their childhoods. That’s why I don’t turn our quality time into a production. Sure, it’s fun to do something like go to Great Wolf Lodge, but when he’s an adult, winning 2,000 tickets at the arcade may carry the same weight to him as dancing around in his underwear in our living room. I can’t force any core memories, but I can make sure that we’re spending time together.

How do you spend quality time with your kiddos?


Queer Mom Chronicles is a column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes. 

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 102 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. This is so great, I agree it doesn’t need to be a big production. I share custody of my boys and I used to feel a lot of pressure to make my time with them extra special but I think kids love when we are interested in what they are doing and join in, whatever that may be. Simple is often better :) I have been playing a lot of Mario Kart with mine too and I hear you on the hand cramps those controllers are so tiny lol 😂

  2. I’ve been struggling with this lately. My kid is 7. We started indoor climbing as a family when they were 5, and it was great for a while but now when we go they mostly just want to watch stuff on our phones rather than climb. On top of that they got Mine raft for their birthday in November and are pretty obsessed. On the one hand it’s been great for them bonding with their dad, but it’s left me feeling like the odd person out. And I have been struggling with work/life balance, so more often than I’d like I let them watch random stuff so I can get work done. 😕 It’s just hard bc it seems like they’re reluctant to do a lot of things they used to love, and I don’t know if it’s a phase or the winter doldrums, or what’s going on.

    • some of that is just age! my kiddo’s interests changed a lot between 7 and 10. some things he came back around to and some things he had moved on from. i think it’s pretty typical. i get what you’re saying about feeling left out. one of the reasons we got him a switch and mario kart is because he plays with his dad. talk to your kiddo about what they’re feeling into lately. there’s so much within the world of minecraft, maybe that can become a thing you do together. or maybe you can just do random things when you have the time. i get the struggle of the work/life balance too. it’s a lot!

  3. Something I worry about is being stressed and grouchy around my 2 year old son when we spend time together. I am a single parent, I work and am a student, and my father died suddenly recently, so I feel I am operating at wayyyyyy below zero most of the time. I want to be with my son as much time as possible, AND I am not proud of the way I am with him a lot of the time.

    • oh i feel this so much. when you have to carry the weight of everything on your shoulders, unfortunately it’s the kid that always gets the short end of the stick. finding something low lift to do together, maybe it’s just taking a walk or watching some tv, gives you a chance to be together and doesn’t require a lot of mental stamina. don’t beat yourself up about it too much, you will get past this season of life.

  4. Sa’iyda, just chiming in to say how much I love Queer Mom Chronicles. I really appreciate and enjoy this column so much. My wife and I aren’t parents yet, but we want to be. I read everything you write here and always get a lot of joy, wisdom, and encouragement from it. Thanks for what you do!

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