We are a large family and we have a lot of kids that need individual attention. We spend so much time as a large group that there are times I worry about each of the children getting enough attention. It is something I try to be aware of and I do better at certain times and terrible at other times. I know I am not alone in this, even parents of one kid want to make sure their child knows they are loved.
For me, I feel that nights are a challenge for quality time together. We do homework, practice our instruments, prepare for dinner, do any obligations we have, and then it is already time to get ready for bed. So many nights I am looking at the clock wondering where the time has gone. I wonder, “Did I really sit down with this child and talk to them about their day?”
I went around and asked the kids recently what Mom and Dad do that made them feel special. The answer that most of them had was “My night“.
Quite a few years ago, My mom told me of a great idea she heard from someone at Church. Once a month, on the numerical day the child was born, they have special one on one time with their child. For instance, if their child was born on June 3rd, then the 3rd of every month would be their child’s night. I thought this could be a fun idea so we tried it out.
At the beginning, we would have one parent take them somewhere of their choice. For our budget, it had to be pretty much free. The kids would choose the park, or a place where they could see fish or animals, or something they were interested in. If we (and they) were lucky, we would finish off with an ice cream. We tried having one parent do a month, and the next month would be the other parent. This method never really worked for us. Leaving the house was hard and then what happened when other things came up? We couldn’t keep it up so we stopped for a while.
After feeling like we needed to start it back up for a while, we tried again, but kept it at home instead so we could both do it together with them. For our family, staying home is what worked.
So far, this is what we have come up with.
1. Generally speaking, their night will be on the numerical day they were born. We can and do change the date if we have other plans, but we pencil in the changed date so we don’t forget.
2. We put the other kids to bed at 8pm and then the child staying up, gets 1 hour with Mom and Dad, at home (most of the time).
3. The child gets to chose what we do. Some want to play board games, some want ice cream and a movie, some want to play a game on the Wii, some want to jump on the trampoline outside, or go for a walk around the block.
4. Something new we started recently is that the kids get to pick the dinner, within reason. When I menu plan, I ask them what they want if their night is in the 2 week period I am planning at the time. Sometimes they request things no one likes, it is too time intensive for the night, someone else asked for it, or it is too expensive. I try to say Yes most of the time, but there are times I say, “Nope, Pick something different”. I was worried, at first, that I would get 6 Pizza requests, but they have been good about picking legit dinners.
5. Their Nights are not Conditional. They can’t lose them based on their behavior. There have been times that they had to do a make up chore or get their task finished when their night started, and we helped them, and it dipped into their time. They had less time doing something fun, but they still had that time with us. I normally have no problem with them losing privileges when they need to learn a lesson, but this is one exception I make. Their Night can’t get taken away from them.
We make an effort to spend time with the children on a daily basis, but this has become something really special for our family and for the kids. Even with us having 6 kids, this doesn’t take too much from our lives, yet it enhances our relationship with each other and really makes them feel special. They look forward to their night every month. My oldest son writes it on all of his Calendars and my youngest asks frequently if it is her night yet. We haven’t skipped their nights for 2 years since we re-changed it. It is that important to them. A lot of our friends, neighbors, and children’s teachers get to hear about their “night” because the kids are so excited about it.
I don’t want this to be the next “thing” you feel like you have to do. If you want to, your life will be enriched, if you can’t, then find something you can do to spend quality time with your child, and do it regularly. I am a believer in doing things that are manageable. I couldn’t keep something up if it was just too much. This is what works for us. Welcome to Lessons From Our Life 🙂