“Mom!” my oldest pleaded, “You said you’d come see our experiment and you haven’t come yet!” He hopped from one foot to the other, anxious for me to check out the latest concoction in the bathroom that he and his younger brother label “experiments.”

I cringed, knowing my delay due to a writing deadline was somewhat warranted, but little boys don’t understand deadlines or passage of time. And I haven’t quite mastered the art of creating definite work hours yet. I quickly triaged: saving my work, writing myself a note about where I’d left off, and scurried over to see my boys’ creation.

And this, dear moms, is likely a common motherhood dilemma. The last thing I want is for my kids to remember me as “the mom on the computer” or “the distracted mom.” I want my boys to know that time with mom is time to be loved. Since there’s always going to be some kind of work to be done, whether around the house or with my writing, it’s important for me to plan time to spend with my boys one-on-one (or sometimes, if the week is busy, one-on-two!).

Solomon, in instructing his son, talks about how he was tender as a young boy, and felt beloved in the sight of his mother.

That verse in Proverbs 4:3 just breaks my heart sometimes. I want my sons to always feel tender and beloved with me! Moms, our sometimes rough or tough boys have tender hearts that crave our love and attention. While they’re mucking about with experiments and projects, they delight to know their mother’s eyes are on them!

Our boys, so tender and beloved, should find time with mom is a place to BE loved. 

If your schedule is like mine, it can be hard at first to a) find the time to fit in another activity, or b) begin a new tradition of “dates” with your kids. Maybe you’ll find that it’s awkward to set up something formal with your son (especially if they are older), or find yourself still distracted by the phone or other work. So here’s 7 ways to spend time with our beloved boys:

Get out of the house. It’s so important to keep a single-minded focus when you’re trying to shower your sons with love and attention. Even if you just go outside and sit with a special glass of lemonade or hot cocoa, just get away from the sight line of those dishes and laundry. Ground yourself in your purpose of spending that time solely with your son!

Ask them what they enjoy doing with you. It’s okay to make it about them. Remember that line “you can’t spoil a baby”? Well, I think you can’t spoil your child with one-on-one attentiveness! Asking them how or where they enjoy spending time with you shows you want to know their opinions. When I asked my boys this question, they both immediately replied, “Going to the aquarium!” I took them once a month this year, and thought maybe that routine was getting mundane, but it’s their favorite excursion with mom (and we’ve been some pretty cool places!).

Return to familiar places. The above aquarium answer showed me the place we went to over and over again became their favorite place to spend time with me. What a relief that I don’t have to be incredibly inventive each time I take my boys on a “date.” Repeated events are the ones that will burrow deeply into their memory banks for years to come. Plus, the familiarity of the spot takes the wow-factor down a notch, so kid aren’t completely wound up and might have time for some chatting!

Ask other moms. Find out where other moms with boys your kids’ ages take their kids. Get new ideas, and then share those with your kids. If you have a son reluctant to suddenly spend “mom-time” with you, it can help to have an endorsement from your son’s friend: “Hey, you know, I heard So-and-so and his mom had a lot of fun last week when they checked out that new science museum. We should go tomorrow!”

Talk indirectly. My boys love to talk, but if I just sit them across from me and try to have a deep, intense conversation, they clam up. Or get giggly and wriggly until we get moving again. Find an activity you can do where talking is still very possible, but hands are engaged. A sensory play area, nature trail hike, board game, or trip for ice cream are good ways to keep boys active, but allow pockets of time for talking. Especially if your conversation takes a serious or sensitive turn, it can help for each of you to have hands or feet busy to bridge awkward or thoughtful moments.

Relive the moments! After your date, keep talking it up. Show how much you loved spending time with them. Share a funny moment or a curious find with their siblings and dad (and plan a time for them too!). As time passes, refer to the conversations you had with your son “Oh that reminds me of when you mentioned __ on our walk yesterday.” This keeps the conversation open, or lets you tuck in another tidbit of mom-wisdom. Recollecting memories helps to grow the time you shared and gives you another mini-moment together chuckling over a silly thing that happened.

Share a prayer time. During weeks when life is too busy for a full-blown activity date, show your boys you care about spending time with them by calling them to your side for a little special prayer time. Let them know you were just thinking of something important to them – maybe their first day of school, an issue with a friend, a lost favorite toy, or a special hope they are cultivating. Let them know that what’s happening to them is important to you and to God. Share a brief five minutes with them praying very specifically for their need in that moment.

Whether a short prayer, a brief lemonade break, or a full day’s hiking excursion, our boys want to know that they are loved in the sight of their mothers. Their tender hearts yearn for these special moments.

Set aside some time today or this week to rest your eyes on your boys and let them know they are loved.