Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change the chaos of having my siblings for the whole world, but it's hard to focus on one kid when you're in the middle of a child-raising maelstrom. Being the oldest and naturally the most exquisitely behaved, I often felt a bit lost in the shuffle.
For that reason, I have been trying to do special one-on-one dates with my kids. Nothing expensive, just some personal time away from the chaos that is our home life. I recently took my 5-year-old son to Barnes and Noble and as he was playing trains in the kids' area, I just noticed him. He has a beautiful profile. He has a freckle on his ear. He needs a little bit of a haircut. I felt like he was a newborn again, that time where your whole attention is focused on this child you created. He was so happy too, choosing which aisles we went down, how long we spent in any given section of books, leading me by the hand with this look of absolute joy on his face.
We were there for his free birthday cupcake, and as he ate, I asked him about his favorite thing from when he was 4. I reminded him of the fun things we had done, the trips we took, and all the big and exciting things I could think of. "Well," he said, "my favorite thing about being 4 was when you took me on my first special date to McDonald's." That was his favorite thing about his entire year.
I was again reminded of how important these times are to my kids this morning at my son's preschool Mother's Day art gallery, where the picture of me had a caption that read: My mom is special because she takes me on little dates.
Hanging out with your kids is so important. Listen to them. Hear them. Notice them. Make them feel special, because they are. They're not just one of your kids. They are their own little person, and you might be surprised at the stuff they come up with to say when it's just the two of you.
In our family, we actually schedule the dates with the kids. We alternate kids and parents, so we both get opportunities to go out with all the kids. So, the first time around it will be Kid 1/Dad, Kid 2/Mom, Kid 3/Dad, and then the next time it will be Kid 1/Mom, Kid 2/Dad, and Kid 3/Mom. We try to do two a month, so about every other week.
Here are some dates in the $0-$10 range that my kids have picked or I have thought of for the future.
- Exploring Barnes and Noble, reading some books together, buying a book of their choice
- Getting frozen yogurt
- Walking around the mall and getting an accessory for their Build-A-Bear
- Happy Meal and playing in the playland at McDonald's
- Taking a walk together
- Getting nails painted at the salon
- Going on a bike ride
- Flying kites
- Playing at the park
- Going on a nature walk
- Doing the Saturday activity at Home Depot/Lowe's/Lakeshore, etc.
- Going out for a bagel or doughnut for breakfast
- Dollar movie
- Getting smoothies
- Go swimming
- Feed the ducks