Dating your kid. I don’t remember this ever being a concept when I was younger. Occasionally, either my mom or my dad would take me out somewhere without my sister. We’d go shopping maybe, or to grab a bite to eat between errands or after a sports event, but rarely with the intention of just being or talking together.
In our current parenting culture, intentionality is a buzzword. Every word we speak to our kids, every activity we plan, every book we read to them, every game we play, the rules we set, all pre-planned and thought through to make the most of the moment. That can be very, very good. Intentionality does breed purpose, productivity, consistency, and a predictable household where the child knows what is expected. That expectation is really important because children build their internal “rules” about life as they develop from what they experience. If affection is giving broadly, consistently, and without contingency, kids are going to grow up knowing they are loved despite the occasionally necessary punishment. That’s where kid dates come in.
Leaving things to chance often results in misspent time, hurt feelings, and lack of communication. Being intentional in reality does mean planning and forethought, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Plan to have dates with your kid, one on one, somewhere that they want to go.
That means actually writing it down in your calendar beforehand.
I just started bullet journaling, which is a whole other story, but I write down (and add it to my phone calendar) when I’m going to take my kids out. With my oldest, who is 8, we often go to the library and work together. Starbucks is a necessary stop on the way there. We find a quiet corner, sometimes working, sometimes chatting, sometimes reading together. The middle kid, who is 7, loves to go shopping with me. It doesn’t matter what we’re buying or who we’re buying it for. Target, Costco, the mall, the grocery store, whatever. We catch up on which kid has the coolest nerf weapons and what he did at soccer practice the day before and why he thinks he needs yet another pair of shoes (it doesn’t take much convincing on my end). The baby girl pretty much loves any time she gets to spend with me and since she’s too young at this point for full conversations, we usually trek out with the camera to find fabulous new spots, like this coffee shop in our neighborhood that serves purple sweet potato donuts covered in chopped coconut. Dream.
I try to take each of them out at least once a month. Sometimes life is busy and it’s a 20 minute date. Sometimes we are way more flexible and can swing an hour or more out together on a Sunday afternoon. The point is not in the amount of time. The point is making my kids individually feel important, heard, looked at, and considered.
I love this concept because my love language is quality time. I never feel more special than when my husband plans a date for me and tells me to mark the time off in my calendar to be spent just with him. I think my kids feel the same way. They may not have the same love language, but I know that all kids love getting one on one time with mom (and dad). And when kids feel loved, they’re so much more receptive to all the other “intentionality” that you want to throw at them (for me that’s those little lectures that get sprinkled in about why we have certain values, why we treat people certain ways, why it’s important to do homework, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).
It’s hard to start a new habit. But can I encourage you? I promise it’s easier than it sounds. And if you start small it’s extra easy. Plus…donuts can be involved. And that’s never a bad thing.
In these photos, Penny is wearing… a leotard from Leotudes (use code PENNYSTUDE to save), suspender bloomers from Peace Love Snugs (use code PENNY15 to save), socks from Ten Wittle Piggies, shoes from Duchess and Fox, and our Anna doll is from Dandelion Attic (use code PENNY15 to save).