Great Parent-Child Date Nights!

This is one of my all-time favorite topics to talk about. Dating your child.  Dating is a way for two people to bond, get to know one another and discover attributes that are positive or negative about the other person.

As a mother, I want to know that my child is growing spiritually, has a good understanding of what it means to be a man, that he is happy and content in life and that he is confident and likes who he is. By dating my son and spending time, just the two of us, I will learn those things.  And the bonus will be that he knows I want to spend time with him and that I care.

Only having one child, date nights are fairly easy for me to accomplish, however I have a friend who has four children and so her solution looks quite different. Once per week she has a date night with one of her children and they rotate so that each person has a turn. Sometimes she chooses the date night plans and sometimes they do.  She has worked out with another parent that they babysit the other children during these outings and she babysits for them when they have theirs.

After speaking with her and compiling my own list, we have some great ideas for you as you venture into this bonding time with your children, one-on-one. 

1) Putt Putt Golf/Glow Golf
2) Movies can are good, but since you sit without talking, do dinner or something else before/after.
3) Dinner at their favorite restaurant.
4) Scavenger Hunt around town.
5) Bike ride to a park where you have a picnic.
6) Bowling.
7) Frozen Yogurt
8) Go somewhere scenic and watch a sunset. (beach, mountains, park)
9) Try on outfits at clothing stores with no intent to buy, but just to have fun.
10) Get pedicures.
11) Go to a state/county fair.
12) Museum, Aquarium or Art Gallery. A lot of places have kid-free days.
13) Take a walk together.
14) Go somewhere to look at the stars.
15) Pick him/her up from school a bit early and get an ice cream.
16) Make Dr. or Dentist appointments more than just getting business done.  Have lunch after or grab a fun snack.
17) Walk around an indoor or outdoor mall.
18) Exercise together.
19) Go to a community pool.
20) Make something together.  Artwork, pottery, clothing, blanket, a meal.
21) Water gun fight outside.
22) Play with their toys, with them.
23) Wash the car or pet with them.
24) Bless someone else with them.  Make someone a meal, dessert, etc. and take it to them, together.
25) Make "thinking of you" cards and take them to a retirement/elderly home.

These are just some ideas but there are so many more that are cost-effective, as well specific to where you live. Being able to talk and converse about topics important to your child is number one. They need you to care about them and what they care about.  When you show an interest in their thoughts and life interpretations it enables them to feel important to you.  They are likely aware of how busy you are and whether they say it or not, the time you take to spend with them will stick in their memory banks forever. But, even if your child is very young, begin this habit of dating them and you will be glad that you did.  Be sure whatever you choose for your date night, that you are able to hold conversation and good listening time.

Dating for the idea of bonding is the main reason that I am an advocate for this, but there are great side effects.  As a parent, you will know your child better and be confident about where he/she is in their life journey.  You will teach them how to date someone (i.e. my son opens my car door and learns how to act respectfully) and you will be building memories that will last a lifetime. The more you date your child, the more the habit will be instilled that they can talk to you and most importantly, that you will listen. Something to remember is that you listen without giving advice unless asked. Simply give them a platform to share and let them venture into their own decision making.  Guide but do not shut them down or date night will no longer be a positive experience for you both.  Your children are watching you and likely how you bond with them is how they will bond with their future children, friends, spouse, etc.  Be a good example.  Both of you will be better for it. 

Living The Dream

Have you ever asked someone how their day was and they reply with, "Living the dream"?  I always find this so intriguing because depending on the tone in their voice that phrase can mean two completely different things.  If said sarcastically it implies that they are not happy with their life and that they are just plugging through day-by-day.  If said with a smile and an upbeat tone, one would assume that person to be speaking truthfully that they are really living their dream.

So, how about you? Are you living the dream or are you just getting by in the day-to-day? I think a lot of it is a matter of perspective.  This single parent lifestyle isn't easy, but it isn't always hard.  How are you interpreting your situation? Do you see it through the lens of bitterness, betrayal, loneliness or hurt? Or are you looking through the lens of hope, God's promise and success?  Truth be told we all probably waiver back and forth between both eye-goggles.

In this new America that we are raising our sons and daughters, it can seem like a scary place and our goggles can become foggy with worry, anticipation and fear.  It can feel like we are fighting a lose-lose battle.  I mean let's be real here.  We are Christians in a world that is trying to pull our children away from our faith and values every day.  Not only are we doing our very best to raise godly children alone, but we are facing at every turn the possibility of losing a spiritual battle.  I will never forget the day when my 4th grade son stepped into the car after school and before even saying hello to me, asked, "Mom, what is a homosexual?"  Not at all the conversation I thought I'd be having with my 10-year-old, as I picked him up from school that day.

How can we protect our children, uphold our values and still feel like we are "living the dream"? I am not going to pretend that it is going to be easy and a basket of joy, but perspective can help quite a bit.

1) Shower Your Children In Prayer. It is probably the most important thing you should do for your children.  Pray protection, grace and mercy over their lives.  I read Psalm 91 over my son each day.

2) Lead By Example. Be the person you want your son or daughter to be.  If that is positive, spiritual and hopeful, be that.

3) Address Issues When You Need To.  We are adults and know much more than our children will or should. Only address issues with them when it is time for them to know.  For example, explaining homosexuality with my 10-year-old wasn't on my "to do" list at his age, but because he asked, it became priority.  Know what your children are exposed to and equip them with head knowledge from you before they hear it from others.

4) Know The Word Of God. 
How often to you and your best friend talk? If you had a book about your best friend with all the things you needed to know to have a successful friendship, would you read it? Reading God's word is imperative to having a relationship with Him. I guarantee you a certain peace if you devote yourself to scripture and it will greatly help with your perspective.

5) Keep Watch.  We are to never let our guard down.  Always stay on top of your situations, people that you are around and situations that can cause you or your children to stumble. Life can be a wonderful enjoyment and should be, but be mindful of the moments that steer you into the wrong direction. Your children are watching and will follow you.

This life is meant to be enjoyed.  America may be heading down some scary paths but our God is bigger than all of that.  He may not change circumstances but He will get us and our children through. You are not alone and you can definitely stay on the right path while "living the dream".


Psalm 91 (Insert Your Child's Name)

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Life Under A Microscope

As much as single parents try to fight it, truth is that we live a life much differently than a dual parent home.  Our lives are not better or worse necessarily, but it is a reality that we can feel watched and scrutinized more in our parenting, life or financial decisions, and even our romantic ventures.

I have friends who are married and have children, and setting aside the dual parent blessing, there seems to be a much different life led by them.  They are never questioned when they decide to take a family vacation as to how they are able to afford that.  They do not regularly receive pity from others during public tantrums or the dealings with a misbehaved child and likely would not endure a conversation of living in an unsafe area for their children.

Sometimes when I write this blog, I realize that I'm trying to appease all who read it- married, single, divorced, kids/no kids.  That's a lot of pressure until I remember that this blog isn't for everyone.  It is for single parents.  It is referencing situations that we deal with or encounter that not everyone will understand or even agree with.  That being said, I have opinions just like everyone and encounter the world through my own eye goggles.  My attempt is not to state fact, but to state my opinions and offer ideas and encouragement through my experiences.  That's really what it's all about, right? Offering encouragement to others through the situations our lives take us in.

Why is it that single parents, whether male or female feel put under a microscope and analyzed? Why is it that when someone doesn't have a spouse, they are immediately deemed incapable of making decisions for their children without the helpful input or analytic advice from others? Even I, find myself sometimes being the culprit of unsolicited advice towards a fellow single-parent friend.

Like I said, this is my opinion but I think it's because that is how people want to help. We ask and ask for help and there just isn't a clear direction as to how someone can help.  Most likely, they do not mean any harm and truthfully are trying to be the "other" voice of reason we simply do not have as single parents.  Helping comes in many forms and we just haven't been clear in our ask.

We also need to realize that there are stigmas attached to single parenting that we are just not going to get away from. We make less money, are completely stressed out and tired all the time and that we are anxiously awaiting our soul mate.  Are we these things sometimes? Sure.  All of the time, likely not.  But it's important for us to realize within ourselves that we are capable people.  We are amazing individuals who care so much for our children that we are giving all we can of ourselves.  We are not better or worse off in our situations but we are doing the best we can, just like our friends and family who try to help us in any way that they can.  Sometimes, that advice is needed and sometimes it's not.  Take it or leave it, but always keep perspective.  We have reason to be proud of our families and ourselves.