I remember the day – vividly – when each of our kids were born, and I don’t think I’m a unique parent in that way. No matter who you are or where you come from, that is a life-altering moment that is easily recalled from memory. Kate and I remember watching them sleep and dreaming/wondering what and who they would become. Now, with early elementary-aged kids, we’re really beginning to see their individuality shine through. To see their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual transformation as each year passes by is truly a wonder. We often laugh together after they are in bed at the questions, conversations, and experiences we are having with them. It really is fun.
But life is busy and I’ve been told by many mentors and friends that are a decade or two ahead of us that the time will go by extremely fast. One day you are walking them to Kindergarten, and the next they are dating, driving, graduating, and then they are off. In this busyness, it is easy to just be reactive to all the demands on our time on any given day. Work, texts, calls, pest control, laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking, family, friends, contractors, bills, health issues, homework, teachers, finances, insurance, yard work, house affairs, projects, school, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, precious moments and time to do things that really matter sometimes gets put on the back burner. As the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel always gets fixed first”.
We’ve tried our very best to have consistent “check points” to cheers the areas we are accelerating in and to commit to improving the areas where we are missing the mark. It wasn’t too long ago that the area we identified was this notion of dating our kids. We didn’t invent the idea by any means, and many people do it… probably way better than us. But the frequency was the area we really focused in on.
I can say I have a “dating relationship” with my wife – whether I date her once a week or once every six months. But there’s a big difference between going on 24 dates versus 1. That is 24x more interaction, more conversations, more intentionality, and more opportunities to dream, be vulnerable, and learn about each other. We’ve tried to carry this same mentality over to building relationship with our kids – individually.
I want to have gone on so many “dates” with my daughter by the time she starts going out with guys that she has a clear and confident understanding of how a guy should treat her. I want to show her that chivalry is not dead. I wanted to be the first one to take her to a dance, to a fancy restaurant, and to buy her flowers just because I love her. I don’t want her to ever question her Daddy’s love or presence in her life. There will come a time where this sort of interaction won’t be as easy (when I’m not her hero). I get that. And I’ll be prepared for it. But I can’t make up for lost time and the seeds sown in these early years will no doubt pay huge dividends later.
My son and I even go on dates (and yes, he calls them that)! Ever since he was bottle fed and from his earliest memory, he has watched Kate and I head out on dates together. I’ve always told him that it’s my time to focus solely on Mommy and to love on her. So whenever he wants my sole focus he asks for a date as well! I love it! We go hit golf balls at the range, grab ice cream, ride bikes, hang out at the fire pit, play Nintendo, go out to eat… and pre-COVID we’d do sporting events, movies, etc. – no doubt we’ll get back to these at some point. I want to be the best man I can for my son, because I know he’ll be an even better man than me.
Our goal is that one day they know how to pursue others and fuel relationship and friendship by being intentional and having fun. We believe this will ultimately tee them up for success, no matter what life choices they make down the road. I encourage you to find these moments with your kids… and maximize them to the fullest. And if you don’t have kids yet but want them, get into the routine by doing this with your spouse/partner. Repetition leads to habits. And habits define character. What do you want your kids to remember when they leave the nest and begin their next stage of life? Take that step and lead by example. You won’t regret it!