The Mother-Son Date Nights

The Mother-Son Date Nights August 24, 2012

I wrote a post the other week about a scenario in our family where my oldest child, Matthew, broke down into tears one day because he was feeling more criticism than love from me.  Poor guy.  He needed a few mama hugs and then some…  I admit, it is easier to come down hard on him because he is my natural-born leader.  His example sets the tone for our family.  He is my go-to guy for help.  He paves the way for the rest of the kids–all of our experiences with him are new, which means they are often wrought with apprehension and anxiety as we face the unknown.

On top of all that, as older kids like Matthew grow they can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of a larger family.  They are (usually) quieter, more independent and self-sufficient, more able to go-with-the-flow of family life.  It is easy to assume that because their needs are no longer as obvious, they are non-existent, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  As kids age, they need even more encouragement from their parents, especially as they begin to face real-life scenarios and worldly pressures. They need to know mom and dad are their biggest supporters.  They need to feel the love of their family so that when push comes to shove, they’ll make the best choices for themselves.  Thinking about raising my five children into and through the tweens and teens almost makes me want to run and hide.  How will I tend to my older ones while still providing for the more regular needs of my younger children?  Lord, have you given me more than I can handle?

One thought keeping me going is the possibility of pursuing date nights with my kids.  I mentioned this in my previous post, but wanted to pass along a link I found to an article with a few mother-son date night suggestions including possible conversation goals.  I’m hoping these will help–the chance for mom and son to spend some quality time together–away from the family, away from pesky younger siblings, away from distractions.  I can see a hypothetical “date” like this being harder and harder to pull off as my sons age and I become less and less “cool”.   But, these ideas are definitely a great place to start.  I love the idea of involving sports–hitting tennis balls, kicking a soccer ball, or maybe attending a high school sporting event together.

Another valuable resource I’ve enjoyed lately is Kirk Martin from Celebrate Calm.  I signed up for his weekly email chain, which includes anecdotes from his practice and wise words for parents.  He is especially good at offering suggestions for raising “spirited” children.  He also talks about practical ways of connecting with older kids.  For example, he and his son, Casey, have a code for when they need to sit down and talk something through.  It’s a “chips and salsa moment”.  Dad says, “I’ll get the salsa” and Casey says, “I’ll get the chips.”  Then they sit on the back porch and eat chips and salsa, hashing out whatever issue has come to the surface.  It is their secret way of connecting and being sure they are communicating well through the bumps of life.  This is awesome.

Whatever I do, I am willing to do what it takes to keep the lines of communication open.  They can share with me and in return, I can let them know how much I love them.

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  • Kellie “Red”

    A mom friend gave me a great tip this summer. She said, “you want to be the type of mom that your kids want to talk to about things. And if you aren’t that type of mom, then do what needs to be done to change.” I think this is really true, but it also needs to be balanced with being a real adult, a parent who sets boundaries and provides stability for the family. That balance can be tricky, but it is completely achievable!

    Date nights are a great idea, although I don’t think I would call the outing a “date.” I’m sure a date with mom would be very “uncool” when the boys were a bit older, haha! One on one time is so important for all the kids. They should be getting that with each of their parents, and regularly. I think if you can work these regular outings or tasks into your daily routine it will really help to make sure they happen. When I was in elementary school, my Dad brought me to the local high school basketball games, and I loved it! We also had some good quality time as we went to and from sports practices. I remember chatting his ear off as we drove home later in the evenings. Timing can be key as even my chatty daughter doesn’t talk much in the morning 😉 But give her a ride home from choir at 8pm and she will chat your ear off!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Totally with you on all of this. Parents need to be parents, not friends. Advocates and supporters, 100%. Bff’s? Save that for their peers!! I can also remember connecting with my parents through impromptu drives home from events or practices. One week my dad and I had to fend for ourselves while my sister and mom went on a trip–I have more memories from that special time together! We went out to dinner at our fave Chinese restaurant and he accidentally ate a whole red pepper and couldn’t speak for half the meal! I guess that was good bc I got to dominate the conversation. 😉

  • Donna

    Thanks the the date ideas. I, too, feel that pull between the emotional needs of the big kids versus the exhausting physical needs that come from the babies/toddlers. I’m so grateful God knows how to multiply our efforts and make them more by His grace. I love Kirk Martin and just saw him in person at a local parrish. His idea about “sitting down” when you are mad- because the act of sitting calms you down- was helpful. Another thing I did the other night was sit down and ask my son all about what he did with the neighboors that day. How did you pick teams? What words were they using? Were you sweet to the little ones? Usually he plays and then comes in for supper and just gives me the quick answer “we played four square” or something. When I started digging I realized he’d had some hurt feelings at some situations and I was able to tell him how to handle them in the future. I wondered how many times he’d had little emotional baggage like that and I had missed it because I didn’t really engage him.

  • AMDG

    Thank you (and all of the builders) for always challenging me to be a better mom. I will begin again tomorrow 🙂 You and “Red” have both mentioned drives being a great time for you to chat with your parents. I am reminded of a friend of mine who has 12 children. In their family, when one of her children needed some one-on-one time they would tell one of their parents that they needed to go to Starbucks. Regardless of the child’s age, the child sat in the back seat and the parent would drive to the next county to a drive thru Starbucks. Of course, the destination didn’t matter, having a “safe” way to communicate a need seems key and, for so many children and young adults, it seems much easier to open up when they are engaged in another activity. As a side note, Meg Meeker, a mom and pediatrician, has written some great books on parenting both boys and girls. Her website is also a great resource.

  • Shandy C

    When I was a teenager my mom and I would sometimes go grocery shopping without my little brothers. We sometimes stopped to get ice cream at Baskin Robbins. We would have to stop on the street before our house to finish our ice cream so my brothers wouldn’t see. How is that for special one on one time? Something so simple yet 24 years later it is still a special memory.

    And when I got to be an adult (18-19 years old!!) my mom and I would have lunch together at a small Chinese restaurant halfway between her work and my work. Again, $10 memories!

    Thinking back on these moments with my mom makes me realize that I need to be intentional about one on one time which is hard when your kids are close to the same age and do many of the same activities. I believe I will institute “date” nights in our family. We may need to call them something different cause it’s just not right for boys to go on a “date” with their dad.

    Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your life with us, B!

  • Kathy

    Love the idea of private get together time. As the mom of a tween – I need to institute this ASAP so as to build a communication bridge as Kellie mentioned. Definitely want my daughters to know that they can talk to me – no matter what. I may not agree with everything but I am definitely there to listen.

  • I think that this is brilliant and so important. I have been thinking a LOT about how to parent older children now that I have a 9 and 10 year old – the discipline style and the relationship need to evolve.

    I have a great relationship with my parents, but I also remember lunch dates with my grandmother as very special, even when I was in college, everytime I came home on break she would take me to lunch. If there are other wonderful adults in your children’s lives, encourage them to also do this one on one time. These lunches with my grandmother were foundational to my development as a woman of faith.

  • Saoirse

    I recently started picking one kid a week to run afternoon errands with on a Sat. I include either lunch or a trip to the ice cream shop – but not locally as I don’t want to commune with neighbors and friends – just him. I also encourage my husband to take a different kid out on to do something for an hour after Mass even if it is only a quick trip to the Farmer’s Mkt. That one on one time is so vital – and they beg for their turn. We started doing it specifically for our older boys but last Sunday our 3 year old announced it was his turn for Daddy time! 🙂