Have I lost you already? Maybe you're a parent of only one kid or not a parent at all and you're thinking, "This doesn't apply to me." Hang with me. I can make it relevant. At least let me try.
One of my favorite things is a date with just one of my kids. I love singling one out and spending time with just him or her. There are so many benefits to these dates. I know many of you already do this, but allow this to serve as a reminder to make it a priority.
If you're not a parent, you probably still have kids in your life. Whether it's a niece or nephew or the children of a close friend, don't underestimate your influence as a buddy to those kids. If nothing else, you can give a parent you care about a much needed break by taking their kid out once in a while. If you have one child, you may want to do the opposite on occasion. Have your kid choose a friend or cousin and take them out on a date. It will feel like a treat because it’s out of the ordinary.
If you have multiple kids, dates with just one requires planning and can be tough to do, but I they’re so important.
1. Your kid gets to spend time with you without having to “get your attention.”
If you know me well, you know we have four kids. Yes, four ages 10, 7, 4, and 3. My 4-year-old lives in a constant state of, “Look at me!” which she often says, loudly. She’s the second middle child. I grew up as a middle child and have some of those “hey look here” tendencies too. Imagine being the second middle. Not even special enough to be the first middle child. At least that’s what it must feel like. If I have a chance to give her my undivided attention without her having to get it by screaming, repeating herself, or pushing someone else out of the way, I get a chance to see the sweet, wonderful little girl she is. That’s true for all my kids, but Nora’s definitely the one who requires this the most right now.
2. You get to see their unique personality.
This kinda piggybacks on the last one, but it’s a little different. I remember the first time my mom took Anna for the weekend when Hudson was really young. All the sudden, we saw this huge, silly personality come out. In his sister’s absence, he was able to show off a little. When she was around, he was too enamored with her and too busy following her around to think about coming out of his shell. My kids are never as funny, thought-provoking, or precious as when I get a chance to see just them. It’s completely awesome.
3. You can have “a thing” with each of your kids.
One of the best parts about time away with a kid is a chance do to what will become “your thing” with each of them. It’s cool to have more than one kid because you have a better chance of one of them liking what you like. With Anna, we usually like to do crafts or go shopping. Hudson loves watching old episodes of Dick VanDyke or going to see a mystery play. I don’t really have a thing with the younger two yet. They just love time with either me or Ryan. Over the next few years, we’ll solidify “a thing” and then it may change into something else. Cute side story: A few weeks ago, Hudson and I were watching Dick VanDyke and he asked me if we’d do this forever. I said, “Well, your wife may not like it if you’re leaving all the time to lie in bed with your mom to watch TV.” He was confused. “Why wouldn’t she want that?” “Well, we don’t even know if she’ll like me.” And he said, “I’d never marry someone who doesn’t love you.” Then I asked for him to write that down and sign it. Just kidding. But it crossed my mind. Having something that’s your special thing with each kid gives them something to look forward to and something they can request when they really need to connect with you. Keep that in mind as they get older.
Time with kids individually is important, but it can be tough. One thing to keep in mind is it doesn’t have to be a big trip or even an entire evening out. Use small opportunities as a chance to connect. For instance, if you’re running to the store on the weekend, take one of the kids with you. Allow them to help you pick out some meals and in the process give them a chance to be heard with bigger things going on in their lives. Take one of them on a walk or go get ice cream. A quick excursion may be all they need to connect.
It’s pretty obvious why we should take time to be with our kids one-on-one. They behave better when they feel heard, it helps them develop their own personalities, and they will have fond memories of spending time doing special things with you. But the most important reason is because we are modeling God’s love for us when we love our kids properly.
In Matthew 10: 29-31, we’re reminded of God’s individual, very personal love for each of us.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
If God loves us enough to know the number of hairs on our head and his Son loves us enough to die for us, we must model that kind of love to our kids. We must model it so they can one day begin to wrap their heads around the over-the-top love of our Father.
Kids grow up. Fast. My newborn is going to middle school next year and I don’t know how it happened. We need to take advantage of little opportunities to celebrate them and know them better. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.