The other day, the Man was out for the evening, so I went on a date.
With our daughter.
The idea for a Mommy-Daughter date came nearly a year ago, when the Maiden and I were fighting constantly. (Personality-wise, she is my clone. The teenage years are going to be lots of fun.) Maybe we just needed to get to know one another better?
At first it seemed counter-intuitive. The last thing any normal parent wants to do is lavish attention on Miss Three-Going-On-Twenty. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. We always hear that it’s important to keep our relationship with our spouses strong through frequent “dates,” or we’ll end up losing touch. But I think it can be applied to our relationship with our kids, too.
Sure, we spend time with them, but is it really exclusive, one-on-one time? Are we helping them with homework while keeping one eye on the stove? Or pushing them on the swing while texting? Folding laundry while reading to them? Or, when pressed into some dreadful role, like being Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, aren’t we just suffering through it while mentally making a list of all the things we need to do, and plotting our escape?
Our lives are so busy that multitasking is a must, but sometimes kids (and we!) need that exclusive, one-on-one interaction that can only be found on a “date”. In fact, I’ve found that when we have Mommy-Daughter dates– special time where I don’t allow anything else to distract from our spending time together– the Maiden responds really, really well. That doesn’t mean her bad behavior goes out the window (I wish!), but that extra snuggle or “I love you” look in her eyes always tells me that she feels a little closer to me. Me, too: whenever we have one of our special dates, I’m always amazed at how rewarded I feel. I even feel slightly more tolerant of the 6 a.m. “I love you and I love my nail polish” visit the next morning.
How to date a wriggly, squirmy preschooler whose “out on the town” behavior is a little unpredictable? These are some of the dates we’ve been on so far:
- Eating out: I particularly like going to a sit-down restaurant, where we can spend time relaxing and talking, rather than wolfing down our food and running.
- Picnic: Eating outdoors is always fun, especially if it’s at a park, or crammed into the Maiden’s clubhouse. Well, the latter was fun for her, not so much for me. We also had an indoor picnic in the living room one day when the weather interfered with our plans.
- Planning, cooking, and setting out a special dinner: These have ranged from a recipe in the Maiden’s Princess Tiana cookbook to a reenactment of the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s million-course menu.
- Movie night: We make popcorn and snuggle on the couch to watch a movie. No texting, folding laundry, or unnecessary getting up and down allowed; we focus on the movie and one another. It’s led to some great discussions!
- Slumber party: Well, technically the pre-sleep part. We put on our pajamas (even though it’s only 6 p.m.!), do manicures (deep purple for me, sparkly pink for her), pull out our sleeping bags, and watch most of a movie.
- Library day: After spending an hour finding some new books, we come home, sit on the couch, and read them all. Then she rereads them to herself while I read my own book next to her.
- Seeing a show: Whether it’s a movie or the Nutcracker ballet, I try to focus the experience on the Maiden– although afterward I will grumble on Facebook about how I wish she’d actually sat still during the second half.
- Puzzle time: I recently bought a 4-foot puzzle, so our next date will involve attempting to put it together!
We tend to repeat many of the tried-and-true dates, but I’m always on the lookout for new suggestions. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments, and enjoy dating your kid!