"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
August 27, 2014
Daddy-Daughter Dates
by Emily S. Jorgensen

When my second child was born, a nurse at the hospital suggested that we make the effort to spend one-on-one time with our first child to mitigate feelings of jealousy she might develop over all the attention we were going to have to spend on the new baby. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

And so began our family’s practice of parent-child dates.

At some stages of our life we have been more consistent than at others, but we’ve never let it lapse entirely. We try to rotate between all three of the older children about four times a year, sometimes more. (The two-year-old already gets plenty of one-on-one time when her siblings are at school, friends’ houses, or church activities.)

When a child has an upcoming turn for a date with one of the parents, they are allowed to choose the venue, but the parent selects the day and time. So, even though I am completely paralyzed by a fear of heights, I took my second daughter on a ski lift ride up a mountain this past Saturday.

I was proud of myself for not hyperventilating, even though I almost lost it when I saw a mom with a baby in her arms and four other children under six riding past me on the way down. That’s just plain crazy.

So, though they would not be my choice in how I would spend a Friday night, I have gone laser-tagging, water-sliding, McDonald’s-eating, and the aforementioned vertigo-inducing, all to build relationships with my children.

In their book, Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey talk about the difference between how their father thought of their large family and how their mother thought of them. They say that Dad thought of them as a group, while their mother thought of them each individually.

There are many times it is wise and wonderful to think, behave, and love as a group in a family. Family outings, vacations, projects, and chores are all necessary to building children’s identities, social skills, work ethic, and cache of happy memories.

However, each child of God wants to be loved and known individually as well. God does this really well. He listens to and answers our prayers. He custom designs blessings and trials just for us. Patriarchal blessings are just one example of how He sees and appreciates us as individuals.

Mother-son, Daddy-daughter, Mother-daughter, Father-son dates are a way we too can custom design a relationship with each of our children.

On dates, when they know they have your full attention, you can learn things about them you never knew. They will tell you things there is usually no time for in the daily bustle. They may even hold your hand (which they haven’t done since they were tiny).

My parents didn’t plan organized dates with their children; however I cherish memories I have of the one-on-one time we would sometimes get.

I remember once when my dad and I were at the mall. I was about 13. I have no idea why we went there. But, as we walked through a large department store to get to our car in the parking lot nearby, we went past the Juniors section (where they have the stuff for teenage girls, FYI).

My dad stopped at a rack of pretty satin and lace dresses. He picked one out and told me to go try it on. I had never had something so beautiful before. It was seafoam green and a dropped-waist style that was really popular at the time. (It was the 80’s, OK?)

I loved it. It was beautiful. I saw the price tag. I knew it was really expensive for us. I didn’t really need it. He bought it for me anyway.

At home I kept it in the clear plastic bag the cashier had packed it in, hung in my doorless closet in such a way that I could see it and just admire it. I liked looking at it. Whenever I saw it, I knew my dad loved me. I kept it for years after I outgrew it. I just liked to look at the pretty thing my dad had bought just for me and just because he knew I liked it.

So, I didn’t bat an eye when I forked over my debit card last Saturday for a Sundance hoodie for my daughter when it started to rain cats and dogs right before our ride. Even though it cost $55. (Gasp. Don’t tell my husband.)

She knew it was much more expensive than the clothes I usually buy for her. Her eyes got wide when the cashier gave us the total. I know she felt a little guilty and she insisted she didn’t really need it. (Sure, kid — I can see you shivering.)

But, I knew it was her favorite color and she would love it for as long as it fits her. (Which, by the way, better be for a whole year.) And I hope when she sees it, she’ll remember that her mother loves her.

Going on dates with our children isn’t about spending money on them or doing fancy things, of course. Many of our dates have been to the second-run movie theater, or to venues where we already have family passes.

The point that my dad made with that dress and that I hope my children hear from my actions is that they are worth it and that we want to spend whatever we have that is precious on them. That is usually time.

For most of us in the time of life where we are balancing careers and our families and church responsibilities, time is the most valuable commodity we have. Giving our children some of it as a gift, just for each of them individually, is a gift they will remember.

The gift they will give us back is a peek into their private life — the one that belongs to them and not to the family group identity. And as we see a little bit of them, they just might see a little bit of us too. (What? My mom is actually a person?)

So, take your son out for an ice cream cone. Take your daughter for a short hike. See a movie. Ride a train. Play badminton. Launch a quest to find the best burger in town. Go fishing. Make cookies.

Make memories.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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