Why Daddy Date Nights Are Important For Your Kids
With four children, from second year in college to second grade, it can be difficult to make sure each one has the special focussed time they need from their dad. Between running a business, volunteering in the community, general projects around the home that need to be done, and keeping up with kids schedules - there is often very little time left at the end of each day. I once read that the typical father only gets 3 minutes of conversation with his children each day, and I was determined to do something different, so I didn't become a part of that sad statistic. Thankfully a wise friend, who had gone down this path before me, suggested the concept of the Daddy Date Night.
Now, I realize the name might sound silly, but the idea is fantastic. Daddy Date Night is exactly as it sounds, a time where Dad gets to spend quality time, one on one, with one of the kids. It is not a new concept, fathers around the world have been doing this, with or without an official name, but for me, it was a brilliant tip, from a humble friend, that has been a weekly tradition in our home for more the better part of the past two decades now. Here's how they work in our home.
Once a week, on one night of the week, one of the children gets a date with Dad. The dates themselves can look very different from week to week, and from child to child, and the guidelines we've set up for them have evolved over the years. My oldest daughter is away at college, but within an hour from home, so that date night usually involves dinner out for sushi. My middle daughter prefers a coffee drink of some sort, and running errands together. My next aged son might want to work on a project together, go look at something at the store, or play video games. And my youngest guy is all over the place--everything from ice cream treats to riding bikes to flipping through his card collections in his room. Although the date activity may be radically different, the idea is the same: spend time alone with each kid so they can say/ask/do anything they need to with Dad.
At one point, we had to reel in the spending of the kids. We had already set a $10 limit per date night, but had to refocus when our younger guys were 'stockpiling' their money for a couple dates in a row to go buy something cool at Toy's R Us on a future date. We realized they were losing the point of the event and decided there were no more 'rollover dollars' for date night, and in fact, cut the budget back, in most cases, to $5, and helped them think more about the time together, than the spending of the money.
With a daughter in college, I've now been doing date nights for well over 15 years. I started when they were very young, and expected that they might someday outgrow the idea of having a planned time, once a month, with Dad. I was wrong. Every week I still hear, 'Hey, who's date night is is this week," or "when is my next date night?' from one or a couple of the kids. It's not that I don't spend time with them the rest of the week--I do. In fact, I spend a good deal of time with them. Instead, they've all come to realize that those date nights are a special night for them and for Dad. A time when they can share anything they want. Funny things, sad things, things they hope for, things they are scared of, things they are wondering about....and not have to worry about a full, noisy house to interrupt them.
Although Daddy Date Nights have unofficially just become 'date nights' with the kids, they still serve an important roll here each week in our home. We've had a million laughs, some stern talks, plenty of encouraging words, and even shared some tears over tricky conversations about things that didn't go quite as they wanted in life. I cherish every moment, and appreciate how that time enhances the rest of the 'regular' Dad time we spend together. If you have children and don't already regularly set aside a special time for each one, I would encourage you to see just how wonderful that time can be.