After a recent year back in the UK, I found that my hectic schedule had left me little time to really connect with my two daughters; especially my youngest who tended to be much closer to her Mum. I then remembered the concept of “date nights” discussed in Stephen Covey’s excellent “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. In The Seven Habits, Covey – a father of nine (!!); so I guess he might know what he’s talking about – describes how, when his children where growing up, he took each of them out on individual date nights with just a few simple rules;
1. Your child chooses the activity. (Regardless of how dull you might think it to be.)
2. Only one child comes at any one time. (This is so important; I find that when I go out with both my daughters, my tendency is to allow them to just interact with each other while I allow my mind to drift elsewhere)
3. Only one adult comes. (For the same reasons; if I brought my wife along, I’m pretty sure our attention would be split three ways.)
4. You join in the date with an open mind. (No judgements, no expressions of boredom or frustration – you might be surprised.)
Did it work? It did – and still does – for me. My relationship with my youngest has come along leaps and bounds. I also find that the conversations that you have on the “dates” give you an insight into the lives of your children that you might otherwise miss out on.
In the process of our evenings together, I have discovered interests, fears, and personality quirks in my girls that I might never have noticed in our regular daily household routine. For me, that’s more than worth a couple of evenings every week (although I have no idea how I would work it with nine kids).