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July 9, 2012
We the Parents
The Joy of Daddy Dates
by Melissa Howell

I overheard my son Connor telling his cousin Ben about the weekly fishing camp he attends, and how he has learned about all kinds of fish, lures, methods and the like.

"That sounds really great," Ben replied. "Do you think your camp director would let me come sometime? Maybe you could ask him!"

"Well probably, because he's my dad," Connor responded.

"Fishing camp" was something my husband devised as a way to spend time with Connor over the summer and teach him more about a favorite shared pastime. It is a heartwarming sight to watch them - fishing poles in one hand and tackle boxes in the other - walking side by side down to the lake in the glow of the evening sun, their elongated shadows leading the way.

My husband, Brian, has always been really great at spending one-on-one time with our children. The children can hardly contain their excitement when he announces it's time to schedule another round of daddy/Connor, daddy/Isabel and daddy/Lucas dates. He's still working up the courage for a daddy/Mason date with our ever-feisty but always-darling 2-year-old.

The daddy/child dates have consisted of going to a movie, going out to lunch, playing mini golf, shopping for lip gloss and other pink and girly things, doing service for others, of course fishing, and more. He generally lets the child dictate the activity, within reason.

These dates have created many lasting memories. But what the children really savor - even more than the fun outing - is time alone with their dad.

An April 2012 Liahona article titled "Talk Time" offered this valuable advice:

"As fun as it is to talk as a family, it is also important for parents and children to spend one-on-one time together. Take advantage of moments during the day to visit with your children individually. Invite one child at a time to help you complete a household chore, accompany you on an errand, or chat with you in your room for a few minutes. Just a few short moments can lead to meaningful conversations."

I find this generally describes the one-on-one time I have with the children: driving to an activity, running an errand, and such. I'd like to instill more concrete mom/child dates, but either way, that alone time with a child really does lead to meaningful conversation. And it's such a precious opportunity to really get to know our children: who they are, what their strengths are, what things they struggle with, what challenges they are facing and how we can do our part to help them become their best selves. It's a big job; we ought to make more quality time for it.

Perhaps making one-on-one parent/child time in your family comes easily, or perhaps it's something you want to make happen. A few suggestions:

1. Plan ahead, however that works in your family. My husband has a crazy schedule and often works a lot of hours, but he makes time when he can. Sometimes the dates are more spontaneous, other times they are more planned. Family Home Evening is a great time to discuss schedules and work in some parent/child dates.

2. Keep it simple. Chances are, your kiddos will be thrilled to spend time alone with a parent, and what the activity is will be secondary to that. Parent/child dates can easily be low-cost or no-cost. What can beat a hike in the outdoors with snacks brought from home?

3. Allow your children to be part of deciding what the activity is. Simultaneously, these outings can be a great opportunity to expose your children to new interests/activities. On the most recent daddy/Isabel date, Brian was (pleasantly) surprised when Isabel requested that they go fishing together. She caught her first fish and talked non-stop the entire evening, surely giving Brian a new sort of fishing experience that resulted in a fabulous experience for both of them. Consider kicking around a soccer ball together, visiting a local museum or practicing photography together. So often, we are willing to shell out money to someone else to teach things to our child, when in some cases, we can do the job ourselves.

One-on-one time is a fantastic way to establish an open dialogue between family members. No matter how you cast it, you're surely guaranteed to reel in something great.

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