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.