Parenting is Hard
This parenting gig is hard. It’s a trial and error process to some degree, learning what works and what doesn’t for your family as you navigate the waters of well-intended advice, peer judgement and the fear of failure. No matter what you do and how you do it, if you’re not questioning yourself someone else will. How do we know when we’re doing it right? i suppose we figure than answer out as our kids grow into adults themselves, and since the princess is only 7, I think I’ve got a way to go yet.
One of the most important things you can do for your kids is to spend quality time with them. Note – quality, not quantity. Yes, most parents spend a good bit of time with their kids, but how much of it qualifies as quality? My daughter and I spend time together working on her homework every night. Yes, that is time together, but is it quality time? Well, that depends… For most kids – my daughter included – no. The way I define quality time is simple: If your child sees your focus as being on them verses on an activity, place, thing, etc – that is quality time.
Busy, Busy, Busy
Let’s be honest… most of us lead very busy, very scheduled lives and finding time to devote entirely to one person or one thing can be hard. Now, multiply that times the number of children you have, plus you spouse/significant other – and don’t forget yourself. Everyone wants a piece of us! How do we make it all happen?
First, spend some time with each of your children, individually, just talking about what they’d like the two of you to do together sometime. This is quality time in and of itself, but you’re also getting great info here on possible things you can do together in the future. This should be done in a quiet, relaxed environment, free from distractions like phones, televisions or computers.
Next, set a date. Most of us keep a calendar of some sort, paper or electronic. Add your date to your calendar like you would any other meeting/event. Treat it as impossible to reschedule. You do not push your date back because something else comes up (within reason – obviously things like illness, etc will be the exception.) Share the time frame for you date with your child and speak of it often leading up to your date. This helps get/keep your kid excited about the idea of the date, plus adds some accountability for you.
After you’ve set a date, plan your date. Choose an activity that you and your child can do together, that you will both enjoy. You don’t want to choose something that’s going to make you miserable (if you can at all avoid it) and you certainly want your date to be enjoyable for your child. Remember, they need to feel like the center of your world, at least for a little bit. The point of dating your kid, after all, is to connect with your child and reinforce the fact that you love them, care for them and are concerned with what they think and how they feel. All dates don’t need to be elaborate, but you can jazz it up from time to time. And, take advantage of pre-planned activities. The girl and her daddy, their last date night was her school’s Father Daughter Dance. Date, time and activity all planned by someone else. I helped her get dressed up and ready. All daddy had to do was grab some flowers and smile for a few pictures.
When date day comes, be flexible. Know that depending on your child’s mood or current wants/needs, you may need to adjust your plans. Just roll with it! This is the hardest thing for me. I will admit that. I am very “follow the plan” driven, but I’m slowly learning to adapt and overcome my issues.
A day or two after your date, spend a few minutes talking to your child about your date. What did they like? What didn’t they like? Would they like to do it again? Learn from this! My kids have gotten so skilled at the ‘dates’ idea, we don’t even have to ask anymore… they just tell us.
“I want a date with daddy. He’s going to take me to see Frozen.”
“I want a mommy date. McDonald’s please!”
This is Not Burger King
This is not Burger King and you don’t always get to have it your way. I doubt seeing Frozen…again… is on my husband’s “Top 10 Things I Want To Do This Week” list, he’ll do it. It’s important to the girl, so it’s important to him. And, McDonalds? I’d rather not, but I do. I might make another suggestion, but if the boy sticks with his McDonald’s request, I’ll take the chicken breast sandwich, please.
I can’t tell you the improvement we’ve seen in our kids’ attitudes, especially the 7 year old and her interactions with her dad, since we started spending quality one on one time with the kids – away from the other parent and child. She goes to him for help now, still only sometimes, but that’s way more than before. She wants to talk to him, share her day with him. The same with our boy. He is so much more receptive now to having daddy do more for him – which is nice for mommy – but it also means that mommy is freed up to handle other things and have more time to spend with him, doing the things he wants to do.
Do You Date?
Do you go on dates with your children? What types of things do you enjoy doing together on your dates and what, if any, impact have you seen these dates have on your relationship?