How I Do Daddy Dates

Most of the posts on my blog are about my yearly goals (120 posts), physical challenges I take on (20 posts), my career (5-6) or topics I’m learning about at the time (minimalism, measurement, productivity, etc.). Very little to date has been about parenting (I count three posts; 1, 2 and 3). This is somewhat by intention – I was hesitant to write about a topic I didn’t know much about and where I wasn’t objectively good. Now, that I have an aggregated 30 years of parenting under my belt (thats how it works, right?), I perhaps have something to share.

Every month I have part of a day reserved to take one of my children out on a date. This is one-on-one time I spend with them doing something that they want to do. Quality time. I have four children, so each child gets three dates a year and they look forward to them. “Whose date is it this month?” is a frequent question in the house and we now have a schedule published on the family paper calendar.

I don’t think I need to convince any parents that these are a good idea, so lets jump into the details of what I focus on and some practices that I’ve found work

Intentions of Daddy Dates

1. Building Stronger Bonds

First and foremost Daddy Dates offer a unique environment for bonding as individuals. By dedicating uninterrupted one-on-one time to each child, I am increasing chances they feel loved and cared for as an individual. It helps build a bond and normalizes communication. In many ways I am investing in relationships to earn the right to be a part of important conversations later in their life.

When we decided to have four children, one of the risks I was aware of is that each child would get less attention. Speaking to friends of mine that grew up in big families, I hear multiple individuals express disappointment or frustration that they never had an individual relationship with their parents. I wanted to avoid that and Daddy Dates are an explicit hedge in that direction.

2. Creating Memories

I look at these dates as a chance to deeply embed some happy memories into the head of each of my children. I don’t know which ones will make a lasting impression, but the good news is I have about 60 chances which each child to try and land a few good ones. In life’s hard times I want them to have things to think back on that make them smile.

3. Teaching Them How to Act One on One

I started the whole Daddy Date thing when my daughter was young off of some advice that I should make sure my daughter learns how a proper gentleman should treat her. I realized soon thereafter there was no reason that needed to be limited to my daughter  – all of my kids could benefit from spending one-on-one time and having good behavior modeled. I want them to learn to ask questions, to show concern, to earn trust, to be respectful.

4. To Do Things We Don’t Normally Do

Having four children and two adults (plus three pets right now) in a family makes planning difficult. It is hard to find something everyone wants to do. We often have to settle on movies that most of us kind of want to watch and that means it is tough for any child to have very much individuality. Daddy Dates are a chance for me to let them be themselves and explore something they are interested in, even if no one else in the family is interested in it. That includes me. When I hear one of my kids ask to do something that no one else wants to do, I write it down as an idea for a future date to do with just them – this has worked out really well.

5. Have Fun Together

Maybe this one should be first on the list. Parenting is tough. There are lots of hard things about the relationship between parents and children of helping adjust this raw human from their base state to that of a functioning member of society. Sometimes it is nice to just have some fun so everything isn’t so heavy. Daddy Dates are a great way to do this.

Tips for Successful Daddy Dates

1. Just Do It

It is too easy to make excuses and then time slips away. Just get out and start doing them. My first Daddy Date with my daughter was a trip to a breakfast place for some pancakes. They’ve escalated from there, but sometimes they are as simple as taking a walk to get ice cream and sitting in the park to talk and eat it. What is important is that you make it happen.

2. Plan Together

Ask them what they want to do and listen to them at other times to come up with ideas. Sometimes I agree to an idea my kids suggest, sometime I suggest things and we discuss them and sometimes I surprise them based on something I think they’ll like. I’ve had success with all of them.

3. Be Present

You should always do this when you’re with your children, but you should especially try when on a date. Perhaps this is a good chance to practice and build back that muscle. While you’re out, turn off your phone and forget about work. Be present. Show your child that they have your full attention.

4. If You Have Multiple Children – Balance Them

I intentionally try to ensure there is some fairness is dates across children. It isn’t always possible to do so perfectly, but I do my best to ensure as they share stories they each have dates of similar order of magnitude. For my kids that means if someone’s date involved a treat, I try to have one of the next dates for each child involve a similarly sized treat. If one child’s date was more expensive, I’ll try to balance that out. We tell our children it is impossible to make everything fair and equal, but I still try to do my best to avoid inequality insofar as I can control it.

5. Vary the Scale

I try to have a mix of big and small dates. The smaller dates might be as simple as a morning out hiking together and the bigger dates usually involve buying tickets to an event. Across the year I like to have there be a mix to avoid setting the expectation that every date has to be a big production.

That said, I’ve started a tradition of certain birthday month dates being particularly big. For each of my children’s 5th birthdays I took them to visit my mom in San Diego for a weekend. That ended up being a big weekend with visits to the beach, lots of good food and each one got to pick a special activity like LEGOLAND or Disneyland. I plan to continue that tradition on their 10th, 15th and 20th birthdays, letting them pick different cities and/or countries to visit with their dad. I’m looking forward to where they’ll take me.

Conclusion from ChatGPT

Daddy Dates offer a powerful way to strengthen the bond between fathers and their children. By dedicating quality one-on-one time, fathers can create lasting memories, boost their children’s self-esteem, and provide a nurturing space for emotional growth. Remember, it’s not about the extravagance of the outings, but the intention and attention given during these special moments. So, set aside time in your schedule, embrace the adventures, and embark on the magical journey of Daddy Dates with your children. The rewards will be immeasurable, and the memories will last a lifetime.