I remember when I was about twelve, my parents came up with this new system to try to encourage me to finally behave myself. It basically consisted of some sort of point system and the end goal was that, if I got ten points, I got to go to Chapters. This was major incentive because I was a big nerd and had my eye on the entire Nancy Drew section. The part of this that I probably would never have admitted to enjoying so much then, but fondly remember now, was getting to have hot chocolate with my Dad in the adjacent Starbucks. I don't remember what we talked about or what book I ended up buying but I do remember sitting there at the table, drinking sugary goodness, and soaking in the precious one-on-one time with my Dad, as only the oldest of seven could.
At some point during my former pregnancy exhaustion, I started to feel incredibly guilty for how many Netflix Naps I was taking. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, that's the time of the day when you tell your kids that they can watch a Paw Patrol or two and, once you've passed out on the couch with your mouth hanging open in a charming manner, they actually end up watching.....seven. You gotta do what you gotta do and all but I knew I wanted to start being more deliberate about the time we were spending with our kids. I also wanted to get into the habit of spending alone time with them, due to the imminent arrival of Clementine, because I knew how quickly baby life-takeovers happen, once those sweet dictators are on the scene. We decided to start dating our children, which is not as creepy as it sounds, I swear.
Now because we have four kids and are not the Kardashians, we had to find some really clever mostly-free ways to wine and dine our new love interests. Luckily for us, it turns out that kids are very cheap dates and easily impressed by things like M & M's and spending time together outside. In all honesty, we have put a cap on the snacks portion of the date lately because it was all a certain food-loving child of ours cared about and we were starting to get a little jealous. We felt all the "when do I get the slurpee? Are we buying a toy? Can I have five Kinder Eggs instead of one?" was sort of distracting him from the point, which was realizing how amazing and hip his parents are.
I try to make sure that I spend my time with them really trying to get to know them as an individual - their likes, dislikes, quirks, plans, view of the world, and whether or not they like to take long walks on a beach. I try to focus on those stories they tell that might still be going on when we are out shopping for old-age homes together. I try and think of the most thoughtful questions I can and really listen to their hilarious responses. I put my phone away. I try to let them take their time and not tell them to hurry up. The stuff other normal good mothers do but I sometimes forget in the chaos of a regular day. So far, Matt and I have taken them:
- to the park to play soccer
- to Starbucks, for hot chocolate and a necklace-making sesh
- to the animal shelter, just to look and not to come home with a kitty. Seriously. No.
- on a hike
- to try the different food at the grocery store (Lu and I tried headcheese. Not as bad as you would think!)
- on a bike ride
- getting their expert help with a projects, including a trip to a hardware or home store
- to a kid's ballet
- to help plan an upcoming birthday party and pick out decorations
- for sushi
All of these were enthusiastically received.
Some ideas we have for the future are:
- pottery painting
- going to a farmer's market
- picnic time
- sitting on a hill with some sketchbooks
- checking out the Lego store
- going to a hockey game (or let's be real, probably lacrosse because $$$$)
- taking them to an event happening in the city
- exploring a new park
- Ikea ( you probably think I'm kidding but I'm not. Ikea is the most magical place on earth.)
It's not always possible to do elaborate dates either. It's just not practical. Many times, we settle for taking just one kid to run errands with us or stop after going for a haircut to get a hot chocolate.
The point is to make that uninterrupted time to make the eye contact, ask about the latest playground drama, find out which character in the movie was their favourite, make those memories, and to form a strong relationship. The point is, not only to have fun with them now, but also to get 'em while they're young and feeling feelings about the little stuff. That way as they grow and so do their problems, they'll still be talking.
Do you date your kids? Do you have any great date ideas you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them! And, if you're wondering, no, my parents' point system didn't work. I am proud to say that to this very day I still don't behave myself.