A few weeks ago, we went to Legoland (and had quite the adventure, for sure). Only our older two were able to ride most of the rides (Z-urchin got in on a few, Baby Shortstop rode on almost none and didn’t seem to mind much). Therefore, we did a lot of parent swapping- where one parent would ride with one child and the other would wait with the other three. Then the other parent would ride with the other admissible child while the first parent waited with the three. We decided to take turns riding with different children and on the dragon roller coaster, my oldest son broke down in tears because he didn’t want to ride with mommy, he wanted to ride with daddy.
I’m totally ok with Daddy being the favorite roller coaster parent. Before I became a parent, I was prepared for Daddy to be the “Fun” Parent and for me to be “Wallpaper.” My mother had warned me that this might happen (thanks, Mom, for the warning!), as it had happened to her. Of course my siblings and I all love our mother and due to her intentional hard work as a mother, we all have a very close relationship with her. But when we were young, Daddy was the fun one! We all wanted to sit next to Daddy when he was home; or be on Daddy’s team, or be the one to help Daddy with his project. Poor Mom, no one wanted to help her.
I think perhaps this was due to the fact that time with Dad (my parents held the traditional roles of go-to-work Dad and stay-at-home Mom) was rare and therefore quite valuable. The same is true in my family now. For my children, time with their Dad is rarer than time with me and therefore more exciting and more special. This is totally understandable. Furthermore, boys’ first hero should be their father; it is only natural and right. But still, crying over having to go on a ride with me? No, thanks.
So, Hubby and I discussed this problem and thought a good solution would be that I should take him specifically- and all of my children subsequently- out on a date by themselves, for special Mommy-Child time. This idea was modeled to me as well- my parents were very intentional about quality alone time with each of their children and often that would come in the form of special dates. Of course sometimes, it would be a date to the hardware store and then McDonald’s for a milkshake, when my dad needed something for the house; but I remember those times with great fondness. I always knew I wanted my children to go out with their Dad on dates, but since my son cried at time with me, I decided some special time with Mom was also in order.
Last week, a friend of mine invited Princess K and Z-urchin over to her house for a morning play date with her children, who are their ages. I thought carefully about what I would do with that time. I would only have two children- the redheads!- and I wanted to be wise with my time. I decided that a redhead date to the Children’s Museum downtown would be an excellent idea. We have a membership there, but I never take four children by myself- there are too many places for wandering children to get lost. In fact, our last trip there, we lost this redheaded son of ours- though it turns out he was just where we had left him and he with his orange hair and in his orange shirt blended into the bright orange wall behind him… I tell you what, I am not at all used to my redhead blending in with his surroundings!
So, the day of the playdate arrived, I dropped the blondes off, took X-man to the store to pick out a special treat (he chose a lollipop) and we headed downtown for our date. It was a wonderful morning. I let him direct our morning- we went to whatever exhibit or activity he wanted to examine or participate in and we stayed as long as he wanted to stay.
Shortstop took a nap in the stroller and I got in there with X-man, building ramps for a ball to rush down, putting my face and hands in the pins to make impressions (only True Love would stuff my face where thousands of other faces have been, I tell you what), playing with Mammoth figures, weighing objects in scales, putting together a Mammoth Skeleton puzzle, working a lathe, constructing a stair rail, and fitting together gears to turn a clock and to spin a doll. Finally, we tugged and pulled on a rope to move a ball to the top and watched as the dropping ball caused the attached fan to twirl. The whole morning I thought over and over to myself, “Now this is the life.”
The Benefits of My Date with My Son
1. Time to Study- In my post yesterday, I mentioned that to develop a relationship with your children, a parent needs to take the time to study her child- to get to know his or her personality, interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. It was fascinating to see what activities X-man chose to spend time on. His choices gave me insight as to what he is interested in. It is good to know what he is like, so that I can relate to him according to his personality and it is good to know what he likes, so that I can tailor my school lessons to him. The more delightful and attractive the lessons, the more motivated he will be to learn.
2. My Delight- My love language is quality time and I glowed for the rest of the day after X-man and I had the time together. I felt loved, just by virtue of spending delightful time with him- he was happy and cheerful and wanted me to play with him. It was a wonderful feeling.
3. A Happier Son- The date had the effect that I was hoping and intending. His heart has definitely softened toward me. My son is now much more cooperative with me and much sweeter toward me. Ever since that day, he has frequently looked at me wordlessly and formed his hands into a heart. Be still, my beating heart!
So, an invaluable lesson has been learned here. I need to be intentional about spending alone time with each of my children, doing things that they like to do and delighting their hearts. It helps achieve my deepest desire as a mother: a close relationship with my child.