Dating Our Children

I was raised as one of five siblings, all of us born within less than a decade of each other.  It was fun—I never lacked company—but individual attention was hard to come by.

To occasionally give us the kind of individual attention that an only child enjoys all the time, my parents would take turns taking us out one-on-one, without the usual gaggle of siblings.

Like my parents before me, I’m also raising a big cohort of children, closely spaced in age, and I’ve adopted the same strategy.

We call them dates. We have tried to call them something less—um—creepy, but “dates” is the word that makes sense to the kids and so it has stuck. They see a date as an outing between just two of our family of six—often between their dad and me, but once a month, each of our four kids gets a turn at a date with a parent.

If I were a single parent, the logistics of this might be too tricky to pull off. It takes teamwork for my husband and I to get this done. During the first week of the month, I take out our eldest child while my husband watches the other kids at home, and during the second week, my husband takes out our second child while I watch the others, and so on. Each month we trade off which parent takes out whom so that all of the kids have one-on-one time with both parents.

Dates are usually inexpensive. Bike rides and the park are favorite free activities and the dollar theater is a low-cost winner. If we already have a family pass to a pool or a museum, we take the child there instead of paying an entry fee somewhere new.  Still, dates are rarely completely free; my kids expect any date to include a treat. I get it; I expect food on a date, too.

Every week, my seven-year-old is 100% certain that it is his turn and begs us to take him on a date instead of whichever lucky child is actually on the schedule. I have overheard my nine-year-old brag about his monthly dates and all of my kids cheer when I say, “It’s your turn for a date this weekend.” At some point, I assume that the enthusiasm will dwindle as our kids get older and moodier, but so far, the dates are a favorite family tradition.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Podcast: Religious Feminism Podcast Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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8 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    In my experience, with just my children, the enthusiasm will not dwindle. However, they may get more expensive 😉

    However, down the line, there is reciprocation. Now my adult children take me out and buy me lunch – and it’s great.

  2. Ziff says:

    I really like this, April. In my family of origin, my parents did this, although with varying levels of success (but there are seven of us, so it was a bit of work). My wife and I have done this on and off with our kids too. It does seem like a great way to get one-on-one time between child and parent.

  3. OregonMum says:

    We have four kids and we too find that one on one time is so crucial. In addition to “dates” we also do evening errands and take one of them along. We’re also starting up a new tradition where they get a driving distance 2-3 night trip with mom or dad when they get baptized and when they turn 12.

  4. Kristine N says:

    My parents started doing this with us when we were pre-teens. I loved ‘going out’ with my parents all the way through my teen age years, and I think my sisters felt the same. I think the main reason they stopped for us was we kids got too busy somewhere around 16 or 17. When it did stop I was sad about the loss of one-on-one time with my parents, even though I knew it wasn’t working anymore. Which is all to say that you shouldn’t expect your kids’ enthusiasm will dwindle just because they become teens!

  5. Chiaroscuro says:

    I love this tradition, thank you for sharing how you make it work for your family. I have often aspired to do something like this and fallen short. Time to give it another go.

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