My daughter Lilly recently turned 18 and this past week my husband took her out for her birthday present. After I shared the evening’s events with a friend, she encouraged me to write a post about special dates with our children. I should first tell you I am both a tour guide and an event planner at heart. It doesn’t even have to be a day or an event I am participating in – I am more than happy to plot out how a friend or family member should spend their money for a fabulous day. I should also tell you I am a big believer in no matter how large or small the size of the family, it is imperative for children to have quality one-on one-time with their parents. It doesn’t have to be weekly or even monthly, but it does need to be regular and it does need to happen. I also believe that sacrifice and careful financial planning should occur so plans are executed and memories are made.
Her birthday celebration night they travelled to Columbus, Ohio about two hours away. Lilly is going to a culinary school next year, so I searched for a restaurant that would offer a dining experience within blocks of the theater. I chose an upscale, open-air Italian grill. I made sure the food would be eclectic and exciting and the meal would be leisurely. I wanted to help create an atmosphere for them with good food and great conversation starters. Palates satisfied, they then ventured on to The Ohio Theatre to see the musical, Les Miserables. They sang and chatted the whole way home and arrived in the wee hours of the morning to exclaim “it was a night they would never forget!”
In our large family, with financial resources being a consideration, we have special milestones our children can look forward to, and we also have the “let’s go do something just because you are special” dates. These special dates don’t have to break the bank. One of my son James’ favorite dates was when he and I took homemade muffins and fruit with cocoa in a canister and spread out a blanket near the fence of a farm and chatted as we watched the sun rise higher and the horses gallop to and fro. Picnics in scenic locations have always been a favorite of all our children. Ice cream and a walk- times are hard? Make your cone at home and walk the neighborhood. A visit to the local playground to watch your special date’s unique tricks of the playground trade. A browsing trip to their favorite comic book, Lego or clothing store. Sometimes one of us takes the rest of the children out for a walk or to the playground so the other can build a model or bake a special treat with our special date at home. Occasionally the special date is a can’t-wait movie, cheap theater or orchestra tickets (cheap being the operative word), a trip to the free art museum, an exhibit at a local museum or $5 baseball seats to see The Big Red Machine.
Our milestone dates occur at age 13, 18 and after graduation. At age 13, the same-sex spouse takes the birthday child away for a night and two full days to go through Family Life’s Passport to Purity. For one child, the date was Great Wolf Lodge, another a special hotel with amenities and pottery painting. We try to cater to their interests and the idea is for fun, fun, fun in between session times. After all, we are talking about S-E-X with them, YUCK! :-). We end the getaway by meeting the other spouse at The Melting Pot for an evening of hours of conversation and the presentation of the birthday gift.
It takes five more years to save 🙂 so at 18 we try to make the gift a special day or event. After they graduate, we take the graduate away before college for a weekend, whether they are really leaving home or not. For the first four, it was trips with the same-sex parent. For the three boys, one went camping, one went camping and canoeing down the river, and one went to Washington D.C. for tours of all the museums. For Grace, girl weekend at the beach, need I say more! ;-). This year we have changed the rules for the next five and we are both going to go. Sometime in June, the three of us will head to the beach in Michigan to celebrate Lilly’s accomplishments and entry into formal adulthood.
When planning these events I always try to think of each child’s unique personality. If I am planning for my husband and one of our children, I try to make it as stress-free as possible. After all this isn’t a test to see if he is a party planner; it’s a chance for quality time. So for example on the birthday trip, I called ahead about parking for the restaurant and theater, printed parking garage maps, and spoke with restaurant personnel for the timing of their arrival to guarantee good service and a non-rushed dinner. I tried to be a helper to David and think of things in advance that could cause the normal frustrations for a person in an unfamiliar city. Part of the good-time guarantee is the thoughtful planning ahead.
I would love to hear (and I am sure other readers would also) your date ideas and special occasion ideas with your children.