Liam and I have every morning together after Piper goes to school, but to break up the monotony I take him someplace for a "date" once a week. Last week, we went to Barnes and Noble. We got hot chocolates from Starbucks, shared a palmier, and then walked around chatting and looking at books and toys. What great use of an hour! The week before, we went to Panera and there were several moms and sons there doing the same thing. It warmed my heart. There is nothing more special than dating your kiddos.
Beyond the quality time, when you take your kids on a date you are telling them they are special and worth getting to know. You are showing them how to hold a conversation, how to order food, to conduct themselves in public. How to live without an iPhone or iPad in your hand. As the years go by, you can teach your son to hold doors open, or your daughter to expect/accept those chivalrous gestures that will likely be near extinct in ten years.
I took a class several years ago on adolescent development. It was an incredible class, despite the fact I took it because I figured it would be easy material. I am sooooo glad I did. I kept the textbook and will cherish it until my own kids are approaching teen years. One of the chapters discussed parent and teen bonding. The author said that with his own kids, he and his wife try to spend one evening/day each with each of their kids once a month. It sounds so obvious, but when you add in life, sports, school, work, church, etc. it can really be hard to carve out that time. He also mentioned that he takes his son on a weekend trip once a year, and his wife takes their daughter. They go to a pro sporting event, a play, back to school shopping, etc. He said that by building that relationship and trust over time, they were able to skip a lot of the distrust that comes along with the teenage years. When I read it and thought back to my own Daddy/Daughter dates, I saw the light. It was two months later when Neal took Piper to a Father/Daughter Ball and they still talk about it. If you haven't tried it, do! It's a great way to get to know your kid, to enjoy their silliness, and to be a kid yourself. We love it!