The one thing that Matt and I don’t do nearly enough is take time for ourselves. In April we made time to go out on a date for a few hours, and we were pretty sure that was the first time we’d gone out alone in close to two years. Unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in our lives to make time for ourselves. We always have good intentions but it seems something is constantly coming up to get in our way.
When we started working with Cameron’s psychologist one of the things that she told us was that Cameron needed more one on one attention. She suggested that we make time each day to play with him by himself even if it’s only for 5 minutes. So we put that into practice and his behavior improved a lot at home. It was hard to believe how much a little alone time helped him out because believe me with our busy schedules and three kids vying for our attention, 5 minutes is generally all that Cameron got alone.
But that got us thinking, not only do Matt and I need time alone, the kids could really use some alone time themselves. So we came up with a plan that we are putting into place this summer. The last summer before I became a stay at home mom Brendan was struggling. His normal after school program had a summer program where he would go and stay for 10 hours a day. He hated it, but with me working there wasn’t much that we could do. We finally came up with the idea that we would pool our vacation days and take off every Friday that summer, take Brendan out of his program on those days and take him out on a field trip.
We used the opportunity to reinforce some good behaviors in him at the same time since he was struggling with massive meltdowns at that time. We had a list of good behaviors and bad behaviors. Every good behavior earned him a penny and every bad behavior took away two pennies. He had to earn 10 pennies per week to go on his field trip. And boy did it work. He learned very quickly that bad behavior depleted his stockpile of pennies fast. I think there was only one week that entire summer that he didn’t meet his quota and missed out on a field trip.
Remembering how much Brendan loved that summer and those field trips is what gave us our idea for this summer. Each week Either Matt or I is scheduled to go on a “date” with one of our children. We switch off which parent goes and which kid goes each week so that by the end of the summer each child will have had four dates, two with mommy and two with daddy.
So far the kids adore the idea. They (within reason) get to choose the activity that they do with mom or dad and we schedule the timing of the date accordingly. Brendan and daddy spent an entire afternoon playing games together, while Cameron and mommy spent and entire morning shopping (the funny thing is Cameron still has a bunch of birthday money to spend and even though he wanted to go shopping so he could spend it once we were there he didn’t want to part with his money).
Kaylee is slated to go out with daddy this coming weekend and she’s super excited, though at three she isn’t really clear on what she wants to do. It appears that Matt and I may have to help her choose her activities or plan her dates for her as I’m not really sure she quite grasps the concept. But both boys were thrilled with how their dates turned out and are already starting to plan our their next dates with the opposite parent.
This has been a great experience for us all and I really think the kids are going to benefit from the individualized time with us. I think this may be a thing that we continue next summer at the very least, and in the mean time I think we need to make some plans to include a date for Matt and I every once in a while as well.