Not all dates end so well when you bring your five-year along.
Recently, I wrote how changing my perspective on what a date night should be became vital to my husband and I finding parental playtime. However, I reluctantly decided it would be *FINE* to be bringing our five-year old on a summer concert date with us last July.
Oh, you know the tone I’m using when I say fine. That one that means yes, I do care and while it is not what I hoped or envisioned in the end, in the GRAND scheme of things it will be ok. It will be fine. We’ve all heard women say it, “It’s fine!” And we all know that it’s simply an acquiescing declaration.
With so few solo date nights each one is precious and I was looking forward to our concert, sans children.
But having a child with us on our date night wasn’t just fine. It was actually really wonderful. Yes, wonderful.
We have limited resources for being able to hire a babysitter AND go out on a date night, so admittedly I hadn’t given much thought to allocating the time and dollars to a date night with both parents and one child. We’ve done mom/daughter, dad/daughter dates, mom’s night out or dad’ts night out but never intentionally with both parents and one child.
Our concert was a beautiful, festive summer evening. We enjoyed ourselves immensely not in spite of having our five-year old along but because of having her along with us.
Simultaneously, we enjoyed our parental playtime while we also enjoyed connecting one-on-one with our five-year old. We could interact without bickering over who would sit next to whom, who was eating more popcorn than someone else, who was sitting on someone else’s feet, and without the overall volume our family of five typically exudes. We could talk and find out what she was thinking without the interruption from her sisters.
We laughed and loved and connected together that evening.
And it got me thinking how I could create stronger connections with each of my children, individually. I realized that keeping connected with my children doesn’t need to involve a destination or event; although it certainly can.
Creating connections or more importantly, creating opportunities to share together are vitally important. Not only for showing the little ones in your life that you love them but having the chance as a mother or father (or aunt, grandma, uncle, cherished friend) to have fond memories to cherish when the drudgery of family life seems overwhelming is equally important.
Seven Easy Activities to Keep Connected with your Kids
Errands. While running errands are often seen as chores for adults they are also wonderful opportunities to have solo time with your child. For me, as soon as we get in the car alone my children start talking about whatever is on their minds.
Admittedly, sometimes it takes a lot of effort to focus on their topic of conversation but if I stop to listen rather than run through my mental to-do list, I can really learn and connect with my kids. In being in that moment with them, I can learn what their current interests are, what is concerning them and how they are perceiving their role in the family. It really can be eye-opening.
Shared an experience like running 5K. My second child, who is 7 years, loves to run! I give it two more years that I will actually be able to run alongside her. I enjoy the peacefulness of running, the pace calming my mind and being lulled into a rejuvenating experience. My daughter? She talks non-stop for 3.2 miles!
On our first race, I found the non-stop chatter to be like nails on a chalk-board to my typical quiet and calming solo runs. I’m prepared now. I know she will talk the entire run. And in return I comment on what we see during our run and prepare myself for 3.2 miles of chatter.
Parental Playtime plus one. Go ahead. Bring along a littler member of the family on your date. Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised this past summer just how fun it was with a plus one. Without the competition for our attention and without the distractions that seem to be inherent with siblings, conversation and time can flow at a calmer tone.
Now don’t bring your plus one to a fancy dinner or the racy movie but go ahead a bring them along for an outdoor concert, lunch date or an evening stroll.
Parent/Child event such as camping, Y-Guides or Valentines Dance. My children recently attended a Father/Daughter Valentines Dance and absolutely LOVED it! As a family, we went out for dinner and then I was dropped off at home while the kids and dad attended the dance.
I’ll admit, I was little jealous when I heard their stories the next day. The kids had a great time and my husband had an opportunity to see them, really *see* them, as they were foot-loose and fancy-free.
Bake Together. Or cook together. Simply, be in the kitchen together. My kids still love to bake with me. They enjoy our time together in the kitchen and hopefully it’s not just because I let them eat the batter.
They enjoy baking, cooking, creating in the kitchen. And they are proud to be making food for the family and contributing to family life. I’ll admit that with three kids in the kitchen, I can often find myself with three too many cooks in the kitchen. But have patience and find time to share the cooking when you aren’t rushed and they aren’t in need of a nap. And if you run out of rolling pins? Use a wine bottle!
Watch a movie together. And let the movie be their choosing. Snuggle. If you’ve been following my blog posts, you know I am all for having the children watch their own movie while the parents watch their own.
But we also enjoy snuggling with the kids in front of the fire (or piled in bed together) however, we usually choose a family-friendly non-animated movie or tv-series. Recently, our five-year chose the movie. She chose Frozen (Affiliate Link). And she talked about it for days.
My kids will often have conversations with me about the movies they have seen but without having seen the movie it is difficult to engage in their conversations. Sharing in the movies they are interested in shows them that I care, that I am interested and willing to engage in an activity that they enjoy.
Read the same book. My oldest child is now old enough to read chapter books and while in Spain we had the opportunity to read the same book. We could discuss which character we liked the best and why, what we thought would happen next and which character would win. It was fun in more ways than I could have imagined.
All three kids and I listen to audio books together in the car. While not all of their books are interesting and engaging for me, the shared experience around a book still allows me to discuss and have conversations with my kids. Many, many conversations!
Keeping our families connected doesn’t require a lot of additional planning or money or time but it does require our patience and our willingness to draw ourselves into loved ones daily lives. Even if it’s messy!