Works for Me Wednesday: Kid Date

Ok, so this should be more precisely titled “Works for Us, Wednesday…”  But then I’d miss the whole linky bit, here, so I’m keeping it as is.  But, you get the point.  This little tip is something we’ve honed to a very worthy custom in our household: it’s the “Kid Date.”

The kid date is not, as you might wonder, when just the kids go out together and run wild, going out on the town and boozing it up or sneaking into movies.  No, no.  The kid date is when the kids get a turn for their own, SOLO, date, with their dad.  Sounds small, no big deal? Oh, no.  Not at all.  Especially when you have a family with many children, this is a really key thing to craft, if you can.  Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say even if you have a standard size or even small size family, this is a good thing.  That time of undivided attention between the dad and kid?  Priceless.

The Kid Date is a standing Wednesday night gig in our house.  We protect it as much as possible.  Yes, it means a Dad Date, really.  The kids all get lots of time with me.  But their dad, he is a hard working guy and he is busy…all the time.  He’s around as much as he is able. But, his job stuff is, um, time consuming.  It just is.  So, a few years ago, we intentionally started carving out a protected night every week for Dad and one kid to go out, alone, to do whatever they thought sounded like a good idea.

This whole concept played off our standing date, Saturday night.  That’s right, Tom and I have a standing Saturday night date.  It’s all old fashioned, that standing mom/dad date, you betcha.  But, oh boy, it’s priceless and we protect it like gold.  Because it is.  But I digress.  We figured that our weekly date out was so important to our relationship and to staying connected that it would be great for each kid to get solo time w/ Dad too.  They get it with me; I have to make an intentional effort to find that time to check in (and some days/weeks I do that better than others), but with Dad, the time constraints are much tighter.  So, voila, the weekly kid date.

Now, the only way to do the kid date fairly is to make it a system.  We put it on the calendar and we rotate down the troops in age.  No randomness at all (because then there would be intertribal war, not good), though swapping due to homework deadlines is allowed (they work that out between themselves, mostly).  And, just this past month, little Gabey was finally considered old enough to be allowed to go on his first kid date! Oh happy day, er, night!  He was so excited!

It’s a little difficult some weeks to have the kid date, the weeks get eaten up with basketball practices or late meetings or tests…but we really try to make it happen.  And it does mean that Tom has sat through multiple excruciating memorable viewings of the latest kiddie flick (Fly me to the Moon, anyone? Anyone?)…but that’s just what a dad does for his kids.  It’s a tough duty but he’s the man for it.

And is it worth it? All those cheeseburgers, those cartoons, the crash of the bowling pins? Well, I’m not him, but I think he’d say, “You bet.”  Because in between the skittles and the  pasta, sometimes in the dark of the drive home…the kids talk.  They chatter or they open up for a heart to heart or they ask the hard questions.  Or sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they’ve been known to fall asleep in the movie.  But almost every time, that kid comes home to about half the others already asleep.  They come up and check in with me and hug me.  And I ask them, “Did you have a good time?” And they give me an extra kiss or hug, and say, “Yeah.”  Then they go find their dad and hug him goodnight and say thanks for going out with me.  And then, he thanks them back for going out with him.  And that, that is where the gold is.  That connection.  Little bits, along the way.

Kid date.  Worth the time, the trouble, the juggling.  It’s a bag of skittles, all gold.

Bank Deposits, kid version

So, this is in many ways an oldie but a goodie….this concept of banking with your kids.

No, I’m not talking about the allowance or financial planning; coins and greenbacks.  I’m talking, rather, about the most important kind of banking: the Bank of Our Children.  What I mean is this, an old parenting nugget is to make sure you make “deposits” in  your child’s bank account of affection, daily.  Sounds simple, no? Simplistic even.  That very aspect, so basic, doh, makes this an easy nugget to drop or brush off. It’s easy to nod in agreement and then blithely trip along on our daily treadmill.

But that would be a mistake.

It’s one I’ve made all too often and even too recently.  This has been an intensive summer, to say the least.  You all know that.  But numerous other events and things have been cranking up the pressure as well and with that vise, something has to give.  That would be me.  Or, more precisely, that would be my equanimity and even on some days, my kindness and affection.  One of my kids, in particular, has born the brunt of this, fueled by my frustration and disappointment in some of their choices, but aggravated by the general stresses of this summer and simply, mostly, by my sheer laziness and/or burnout in keeping that razor sharp tongue and lightning fast temper locked up.  Happily, Coffeedoc is most excellent at doing this, he doesn’t fall into that bear trap of temper and intensity.  He’s the most even keeled guy I know.  Thank goodness for such gifts.

Suffice it to say, I’ve made more withdrawals than deposits in this bank account lately.

So, I’m once again, flipping back the pages to the basics for a refresher course in parenting basics 101.  And the most fundamental one is: make sure you make sure your kid knows you think they are great, good, even awesome.  Even if they are frustrating you, you (ok, me) can look ’em in the eye and kiss them on their forhead and smile at them with soft eyes a couple of times in the day.  You can tell them “I love you,” without it sounding snarky.  Really, you can.  And if you can’t, you can touch their shoulder as you pass by them in the kitchen and you can let them see you looking at them with a smile.  Really. You can.  Ok, that’s right, I can.  But some days, some of those hard brittle parenting teen days…or five year old days, or kids from hard places days…..you have to intentionally MAKE yourself do it.

That’s right, you have to MAKE yourself do it.  Because you might want to growl at them, you might want to tug their ear to get them to listen, you might want to hold up your palm toward their face and glare instead of hearing them.  But that would be a mistake.  Because then your ‘bank account’ {by which I mean: THEIR bank account of this resource too} of closeness and affection with that kid, your kid, is draining like a sieve.  And if you (ok, me) can just pull them into even a half shoulder hug….you’re changing that pattern and building that interest and that reserve back up again.

But, this particular bank account….it’s not only your best resource for happiness and heck, even retirement (fair warning children!) but it’s theirs.  For their future too.  It’s their most important IRA, it’s  an IKA  – Individual Kid Account.  And you are the steward of it.  Those deposits may seem fleeting and ephemeral, but they are worth more than platinum or gold.