It was my sweet daughter, Lyla who first began asking for my husband to take her on a date. Lyla grew up watching Daddy come home and whisk exhausted Mommy away to go on a date to an exotic place like Chili’s or Boozie’s Grille (don’t worry, moving to foodie infused Madison has changed our dates for the better). Lyla saw Mommy “get fancy” aka. put on extra eye makeup, flattering clothes, and dangly earrings for those special dates with Daddy. Lyla saw Daddy’s date prep- put on a shirt with buttons and add some extra deodorant. Nevertheless, Lyla was enamored with the thought of getting to go somewhere special all dressed up with just her Daddy. Melt my heart, it was so sweet.
My husband found a Daddy/Daughter dance to take Lyla to on their first date. He made a big deal of it and they both were very “fancy.” The event included crafts, cake, and dancing to Disney songs. Lyla’s first date was off the charts fantastic! When she arrived home with my husband she was beaming, and my husband was too. A new tradition had started.
Daddy/Daughter dates weren’t set on a regular schedule, but happened roughly every other month. Lyla is also our middle child, and she ate up the extra attention and cherished the quality time (her love language). Gradually, the date fun expanded to the rest of the family. Now the rotation includes Mommy/Daughter dates and slumber parties in our basement guest bedroom. Our oldest son got into the action too stealing away my husband for “Man Dates.” Recently, I took my 4 year old son to see the play “Goodnight Moon” at the Overture Center. When I buckled him into his carseat, he excitedly shouted, “This is my first date!” So of course, I had to make sure it included ice cream too!
Taking our children on dates has been a fun and effective way to love and know them as individuals. We tune in and ask questions and allow the child to lead the conversation topics. My husband knows a lot about Shopkins. I know all about Mixels and Star Wars Legos. We snap a quick picture with our phones, but quickly put them away to focus on our special date sitting in front of us. My husband and I want to model how to treat others and engage relationally one-on-one. Doors are opened, eye contact made, manners displayed, and a slower pace sets the tone of our dates. My smile was huge and tears welled up in my eyes when my 9 year old son reached affectionately for my hand as we strolled State Street last week. These are sacred times together!
Dates make our children feel important as they help plan the details and anticipate the fun. We don’t always have room in the budget to do a meal out at a restaurant, but we can do ice cream and chit chat. We don’t have to see a movie in the theater as long as we can hog the TV in the basement and eat popcorn side by side. Allowing the child to pick the movie and letting them be the expert explaining all the characters and backstory make for delightful conversations and interaction. The point being- dates are about time together with our kids, not shock and awe of experiences and not budget busting extravagance.
The kids who are left behind at home with the other parent experience a relaxed evening with game playing, home movie, and/or a simple kid friendly supper. The kids don’t get jealous of each other, but we also enforce a “no rubbing it in” rule for the kid who got to go on the special date. We don’t have a set rotation for who is next. As opportunities arise, we go for it. Sometimes one child will need some extra TLC, and a date with Mommy or Daddy is an important boost.
Dating our kids has been a tangible and meaningful way to enjoy them. Unfortunately, sometimes the enjoying part gets lost in the shuffle of day to day. Dates offer us the opportunity to slow down and tune into the wonderful people growing up in our home right before our eyes. I’m not sure how much longer I will feel that small reach and grab for my hand, but I will take it. I will love it. I will cherish it forever.