I have two girls. They’re 6 (almost 7) and 8 years old now. They’re still at the ages when it’s cool to hang with Dad. I like that.
At the beginning of December, I decided I was going to start setting up “Daddy-Daughter Dates” – times I would spend with each one of them individually. The intent was a quick lunch out or a trip to a store or maybe bowling. It wasn’t supposed to be time intensive, though I didn’t want it to be rushed either. The goal is to spend some time bonding with the girls individually, and to cement in their minds that they can talk to me – to really make that connection now, so when they get older we’ll have that openness and trust established and hopefully habituated.
The problem is, it’s getting harder and harder to find time to do these dates. Not to mention it’s getting harder to find things to do other than eat out.
I started this during my vacation days leading up to Christmas. I had off each Friday in December and we went to lunch – and sometimes that turned into lunch plus running a bunch of errands or shopping for a few hours. As simple as that sounds, I think it ended up setting the bar pretty high. The kids really look forward to these – partially because they’re doing something with me, which is great, but partly because they love going out to eat. But if I take one out, the other is stranded with Mom (not that that’s a bad thing at all, but we can’t afford 2 simultaneous dates every week, so their time with Mom is usually lower keyed – which is ironically what I’m shooting for with these dates to begin with).
I can’t consistently take time off work for lunch on a schedule that matches their home schooling. Most days I don’t take lunch at all, really, so it actually doesn’t matter what their schedule is. Taking a kid out to dinner seems unfair to the other half of the family I’m leaving at home – plus it’s more expensive than lunch. And I can’t figure out what to do that isn’t taking them out to eat.
I have ideas, actually, but not ones that would appeal to them. I’m trying to reinforce the original definition of the date as “spending time together” and not just going out for fun stuff, but it’s hard to do. When we went out recently to recycle our Christmas tree and do some shopping at Lowes, my eldest stated flat-out “This does not count as our Daddy-Daughter Date” just in case I was considering it (which I was).
I’m trying to think of the things I did one-on-one with my Dad. It was always cool to eat lunch with him at the Naval Air center where he worked. I work at home. Not as exciting, nor does it lend itself to individual time. The best translation is going out to eat… but we just covered that above.
We played catch. I remember that as a time of bonding, and sincerely enjoyed it as a whole, but sports were never really my thing and I also remember having to be forced to do it more than once. Still, I don’t totally discount that as an option when the weather gets warmer. The kids definitely enjoy things like archery and whiffle-ball.
Oddly, the thing I remember the most fondly as bonding time with my Dad was the thing I had to be forced to do almost every time: help fix the car or otherwise work in the garage. Most of my friends now probably think of me as inept with machinery and tool-related tasks. I’m not, really. I’m actually pretty good at it when pressed (and given the time to refresh my rusty skills), and that is almost exclusively due to the time I spent in the garage with Dad. He was always fixing, or at least tinkering, with something out there. Heck, he built the garage itself. He had a real passion for that stuff, and he was very good at it. I have very little of that passion, unfortunately, which is probably why I appear to have no skills. But looking back on that time now, I miss it. A lot. I’d be very happy right now to sit in that garage in front of that insanely loud turbo-heater talking, learning, and fixing things with my Dad. Well, maybe not right in front of it… that thing would burn your skin off at 10 paces.
Anyway… fixing things. As I said, my passion for that is pretty low, and so is its frequency, but it does happen from time to time. And I do want to include the girls when I can. Kind of hard to bill that as a date, though.
But it wasn’t the activity so much as the passion he had for it. The closest parallel I have to that passion is computers. He spent almost as much time in that garage as I do with my computer. Come to think of it, he managed quite of bit of computer time too. Software and hardware (he was an electrical engineer and computer scientist, after all) – neither were safe from his tinkering. We spent a lot of time doing that together, too. I’m sure there are bonding opportunities there somewhere with my girls, but again… hard to bill as a date.
Maybe that’s part of the problem. Labeling. Maybe making it an event is a mistake. It should just be part of life. That’s what I was really intending for years, but to tell the truth it wasn’t really happening. The kids are so close in age and (usually) such good friends that they spend most of their time together. It’s hard to do something individually with them without planning it ahead of time.
I don’t know. Anybody have any ideas? I’ll take it from anyone, but Dads with girls, especially… what do you do to spend time with them? How do you separate them from their siblings without making it a big deal, and simply when do you find the time? Or ladies, what did you do with your dad?