About a year ago, I began a special tradition with my son.
Once a month I take him out for a guys’ night, just the two of us.
Most of the time, we end up going to Panda Express for dinner because it’s our favorite place. There is a Cabela’s close by where we go to see all the fish and animals.
My boy loves it.
While what I do may seem very simple and specific, the framework is simple and easy to follow for anyone who would like to spend more quality time with their kids.
Set the pattern
Because I’ve been doing this for so long, my boy now knows what it means when we’re going out to dinner and Cabela’s.
He always gets so excited that he spends the entire day while I’m at work talking about it.
The power in this pattern is that it’s simplicity breeds consistency.
I picked a random day of the week that happened to work with my schedule at the time and set it in my Google calendar to repeat every month forever.
Then, anytime a potential conflict arises, I confidently decline and make sure I keep that time for my boy and me. Occasionally I do have to move it due to a vacation or something else. But we’ve never missed a month so far.
The time is special to us both.
I look forward to setting up another night to take my daughter out when she is just a little bit older.
Foundations for future friendship
I don’t know what my children will be like when they are teenagers. I look forward to those years because I love teenagers.
I used to look at him when he was a baby and imagine his life as a 10-year old, 15-year old, and 20-year old. I still do sometimes to remind myself that I am in this for him.
I know that if I put in the work now to treat him like one of my very best friends, then we will become best friends. I want to set a good example and help him follow it. I know that quality time is the best way to do that.
I anticipate that a relationship built on friendship and trust will remain strong in the years ahead, particularly in times when many parents have a hard time connecting with their children.
As the years wear on, these outings will change in their nature, and I look forward to that.
We may start going to movies instead of Cabela’s.
I hope that he will choose the restaurant most of the time.
Maybe this will turn into a weekend backpacking trip.
It doesn’t really matter what we do. The point is to create a space in which I can get to know my boy better as he gets older.
That’s the crazy thing about kids. They come with all this personality and passion, but they don’t have a relationship with you pre-built into them. They don’t come knowing you, and you don’t learn who they are without putting in the time and energy.
You have to nurture your relationships with your children for them to thrive.
Right now he’s young enough that we don’t have much to talk about when we sit down to eat, or when we walk around Cabela’s.
But creating and protecting this sacred time together will prepare a time and place that he will one day tell me about all of his struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams.
And I will be able to be there for him through all of it.
Actionable Advice: Pick a day of the week and make a calendar event to take just one kid out on a date. Set it to repeat monthly forever. Take them where they like to go for dinner, then ask them what they’d like to do for fun. Do the same for each kid, once a month on separate weeks.