Life gets busy. We all know this.
We’ve tried to make sure we are being intentional about doing things that help foster connections with one another as a family. That our boys feel seen, known, and valued. It can be hard when there are multiple kids and multiple jobs and multiple extra activities to easily fit in time to do that sometimes. We try to be intentional about taking those moments when we can and giving them each some one-on-one time with us, but we’ve also found a beautiful thing in actually planning for and setting aside time to do so.
For the past two years for Christmas, we’ve given our boys a box of “A Year of Dates.” Part of it was an effort to cut back on the “stuff” and the culture of having a mountain of gifts. And part of it was wanting to focus on relationships and experiences together. After the first year of doing it, I wasn’t 100% sure that they loved it, but as Christmas approached all three boys separately asked me if we would get to do it again because they loved it so much and said it was their favorite gift.
In advance, we simply plan out a date for each boy for each month of the year. I make a spreadsheet on my computer (because I really am quite fond of spreadsheets). The dates bounce back and forth from time with mom and time with dad. And we even slip in 2-3 “family dates” of doing something extra special. I make a card for each month and put it in a sealed envelope. And then they each have a box of these cards. On the first of each month, they pull out that month’s card and we open them all together to reveal what each of their dates are for that month.
Some of them involve a cost. Some of them don’t. Biking date with dad. Breakfast date with mom. Bowling date with dad. Hiking date with mom. Family date to see a movie in the theater. Service/volunteering date with mom. Donut date with dad. Library date with mom. Dinner date with dad.
It is a tradition that I am determined to carry on. I already have pockets of so many wonderful memories. A chance to take a break from corralling 3 boys…..to really getting to observe and spend time with just 1 boy, pouring into them and understanding them better. To have a conversation, listen to him without interruption, give him some say in what we do together.
I have no doubt that we will look back and value many of our ordinary moments: bedtime routines and devotions, time around the dinner table, playing games together, etc. But I really think we will look back and value these moments of being intentional about spending time together also.
This month was a larger cost item for a family date. We took the boys to an indoor waterpark/hotel overnight. We did this a few years ago and they have repeatedly asked when we would be doing it again. So, there was great excitement when they opened up this month’s cards to reveal their “dates.”
|Heath asked me not to scream so much on the big waterslides.|
I told him that it was more fun if you scream.
|So much concentration. Our stay included 8 hours to play in the arcade.|
Who needs to play arcade games for that long?! I feel that's a bit unhealthy.
But the guys all thought it was awesome. (No, they didn't actually use up all that time)
|And this is what I do while they play arcade games.|
|And conveniently, it was close to another great destination.|
Bonus points if you can guess where this is!
|Evidence of a succesful trip.|
For 2017, I had made a “Year of Dates” for Adam also. We, admittedly, do not always set aside time to get away together frequently enough. Over the years, we’ve taken a few trips together without kids. We spend many nights together after boys are in bed. But I knew we needed to take it up a step in making sure we were spending intentional time together. I did really good for half the year. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a handful of the dates happen as it was difficult to fit some of them in during extra busy months or the cost bothered my budget-conscious mind. Fortunately, I married an incredibly gracious man. And in an effort to take the pressure off of me, he made a “Year of Dates” box for me in 2018. He is typically much better than me at executing a plan, keeping things secret, and following through. I’m discovering that he made some of them to be with him…..and he’s set me up on dates for some of the others. In February, I had a date with 2 of my girlfriends. And this month, I had a date with my mom. He knows how much I value time with women.
Anyways. Just wanted to share how our family is being intentional about how we spend our time with one another and how we make it special. Hope others are finding ways that fit their family. The goal is really to make sure we are valuing one another and allowing time for those important relationships in our lives to not take a backseat to all of the other busyness.