“Want to go on a date?” I ask my 6-year-old daughter, Bekah. She glances up from behind the laptop, where she’s been watching online reruns of 1980’s cartoons for far too long.
“Yeah!” Her eyes light up. I don’t even have to tell her where we’re going, and she’s ecstatic.
“I was thinking of a walk at the bike path and a trip to the thrift store. Deal?” It’s not an extravagant scheme. I simply need some exercise, it’s a rare sixty-degree winter day, and I need lamp shades from the thrift store.
We’re out the door in less than ten minutes, and a short drive to the bike path lands us to the beauty of the forest with almost no effort whatsoever. She’s strapped into her helmet and pink knee pads before I have time to lock the car, and we’re off on our adventure.
I walk, and she keeps pace beside me on her bike, little training wheels rattling against the pavement in a low hum. “Whatcha wanna talk ‘bout?” she says, grinning as wide as can be.
“So, how’s your life?” I ask. It’s how we start all of our dates. We smile at the possibility before us and ponder which parts of our lives require discussion. In the quietness of our time together, we find space to air our thoughts, put words to our fears, and build deep roots of trust. She shares parts of her life, and I share parts of mine. She’s only six, but she needs to know my struggles and my triumphs – not all of them – but the ones that can help her put words to her own experiences.
We share three miles of conversation on the bike path, an hour of browsing through the thrift store, and two slightly melted lollypops from the center console of my car on the way home. Our date costs only the two dollars of gas it took to drive to the bike path, but it’s worth more than money could ever buy. We try to do this at least once a month, and here are five reasons why:
Space to speak or be silent
There’s no pressure on our mommy/daughter dates. Sometimes she rides ahead of me on her bike, and we go for long stretches without talking. Sometimes we talk without ceasing in the car, and sometimes we sit in silence. There’s freedom to simply enjoy being together and freedom to speak what’s on our hearts. I want her to carry this freedom into her teen and adult years. I love her simply because she’s mine, and she’ll never need to force conversation or guard her words with me. She is free to be herself – quiet or talking, silly or serious, filled with joy or struggling in despair. Making space to simply be together and enjoy one another is refreshing and affirming for each of us.
We will laugh
There are certain jokes, shared only between the two of us, and they take place on almost every date. We start every walk or bike ride by asking, “So, how’s your life?” The question makes us both smile every time. We take turns calling one another “slow poke” on the bike trail, depending on whose pace is faster. We throw rocks into rivers, try on silly hats at the store, joke about frumpy dresses, and make ridiculous suggestions about shoes at the thrift store. We swim and splash along sandy beaches in the summer months and make snow angels in the winter. Simply being together is fun. Knowing we will laugh makes us both eager to spend time together, regardless of what the planned activity happens to be.
For more ideas on growing closer with your children, check out this post:
She’ll remember every detail
I’m amazed that Bekah reminds me of things we did on our dates when she was barely three years old: “Remember that time we tried to catch frogs at the swamp on Book Road?” “Remember when we went to the animal park, and the deer bit my finger?” “Remember when we went walking at the mall, and I rode on the toy horse that nearly bucked me off?”
Calling our time together a “date” denotes it as a special space in time. She knows this, and she cherishes every moment. They are special moments, and she remembers them with more accuracy than I do. She senses that I cherish her, and our time together builds a strong foundation as she establishes her identity as a beloved child of God in relentlessly critical world.
We’re learning to share hobbies early in her life
My hope is that Bekah will one day be one of my closest adult friends. She’ll always be my daughter. I’ll always cherish her. I also hope to share life’s activities with her for the rest of my life. One way to promote this to engage in hobbies together early on.
I’m passionate about nature, adventure, and exploring new pieces of wilderness. My passions naturally lead me to take my children with me on outdoor adventures. It’s important for me to gear some of these adventures to the interests of curious children, so a hike to a new piece of the local park involves carrying a butterfly net. My love of exercise led me to make sure Bekah had a bike and could accompany me on walks at the bike path as soon as she was capable. As these experiences foster a deep appreciation for nature in my children, I hope to instill passions we can enjoy for years to come.
I get to intentionally affirm her
Life with two young children is full of activity and conversation. When I’m honest about it, most days consist of simply trying to keep the peace, keep hungry mouths filled, and keep the house from falling apart. We manage to incorporate fun adventures into most of our days, but juggling two little voices with an infinite number of needs is a lot to handle.
When it’s just the two of us, there’s quiet space to ponder our relationship, cultivate gratitude for one another, and I get to intentionally affirm her. I tell her specific aspects of her effort at school that are making me proud. I make note of times I’ve seen displays of her kindness in recent weeks. I thank her for being who she is and build her up as much as possible. These are life-changing opportunities to speak life into her young mind.
For more ideas on how to treat our children as gifts, check out Parenting: Tips to become a fantastic parent.
I conclude with a word of encouragement today. Taking your child on a date sometime soon has the potential to deepen your relationship in a way you never thought possible. You’ve been given the enormous gift of stewarding a life. Pour into it with all you have.