I watched him as he edged up to the counter, money in one sweaty hand in anticipation of the barista's request. I found a table for two and settled in with our favorite board game. We talked and laughed. I beat him in Lost Cities. He shared his observations about the football season; I told him about my week. He held the door. I looked on him with a deep heart of affection.
I was a married woman on a date. Only it wasn't with my husband.
It was with my son. My middle school son.
Our dates started years ago, when he was a little guy. Now he wears bigger shoes than me and has inched up taller me. We go out once a month. On the weekend. It's part of an idea that Rick had and we call it Family Night. (I know, right?! Super creative of us. We're tricky like that.)
Family night has one goal in mind: time set aside so that we can make sure that the busyness of life doesn't crowd out our relationships with each other. It's especially important now as the kids are getting older and their friends are becoming more important to them. Of course, family night isn't our only time together! We do other things together throughout the week. We eat family dinners several nights a week. We talk a lot along the way. We worship and serve together. And we weave random movie nights and walks and bonfires into our weekends whenever we can. But, a set aside Family Night ensures that we are getting at least one day a week of concentrated time together. Because, let's face it, our schedules are a reflection of our priorities.
I have found that we American Christians can be tricked into thinking we are very family-oriented. Afterall, we are the ones who 'focus on the family'. We encourage each other away from workaholism. In fact, our lives are often filled with our kids' activities. But don't be fooled: carting them around to their friends' parties, being supportive and watching their activities (their sporting events, dance recitals, band shows, etc.) is NOT the same thing as spending time with them. I thank God for Rick's foresight in this. Otherwise, I think we'd be an overly busy family running from activity to activity. I'll be honest, it's not always easy. Family Night means we say "no" to a lot of other good things.
We follow a simple rotation. The first weekend it's all four of us doing something together (a game night, an adventure like rock climbing, a walk along the river downtown, or dinner and fro yo at our favorite yogurt shop). The second weekend is girls time and boys time. I take Madison out and Rick gets time with Caleb. On the third weekend, we swap: Caleb and I go out while Rick takes Madison out. And, then on the fourth weekend, I get a night out while Rick and the kids hang-out together.
I value all of our family nights. But those date nights are golden. Concentrated one-on-one time with each of my kids has proven to be invaluable. Sometimes they open up right there. Other times we just laugh a lot together. But, either way, it paves the way for so many other along-the-way conversations and interactions. And it forces me to think about different activities with each of the kids - what I do with Madison is not the same as what I do with Caleb because they are different kids. While we sit at Five Guys snapping open peanuts and chatting, I get peeks into their souls. Glimpses into who they are becoming.
Now, as I write these things, I realize that every family has its own culture. Maybe you have too many kids to do a monthly date with each of them. Maybe you're a single mom and getting alone time with each child is nearly impossible. There's nothing magic about our system. But, I want to encourage you to make time for the glimpses. Somehow, someway.
How does that look in your home? How do you make family time a priority in your home? I would love to hear!
Grace and peace,