Last month was all about spending one-on-one time with my kids each week. As I got further into the challenge I started to feel as though it was an impossible challenge. I felt as though getting alone with one kid every week was asking for a miracle. One of my favorite suggestions for this was to allow one kid to stay up 30 minutes later each night to spend time with mom and dad. I loved that! The next thing I found was a mom that has “first Friday's” and on the first Friday of each month either her or her husband take one kid out for dinner. As soon as I read it I loved it! So, of course I asked her to share her story ………..
It is an honor to be asked by Jamie to Guest Blog about our family’s “First Fridays!” I am a long-time reader of Jamie’s blog, and have especially loved reading her recent posts about her 2012 Better-Mommy Goals!
Like Jamie, I have found spending one-on-one time with my kids to be a serious challenge. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard. But oh my gosh! It is so hard! My husband Braydon and I have three adorable kids and two big careers all under one roof. It is a lot to juggle. We also have no extended family anywhere near us, so we rarely get a break. For years we struggled with knowing that we should be spending one-on-one time with our kids (especially our twins—twins are especially challenging in this arena!!!). We knew in our hearts how important this was, but we could not figure out how to prioritize it enough to actually make it happen on a regular basis. We tried all sorts of things, in fits and starts, but none of them ever really stuck. And then, one year ago, we came up with a plan that has turned it all around for us… Our “J-M Family First Fridays.”
This is how it works: We devote the first Friday night of each month to taking turns going out to dinner one-on-one with each of our kids. The first time I went out with Kyle, then the next month I went out with Owen, then with Meera. Then it was Braydon’s turn—he went out with Kyle, then the next month he went out with Owen, then with Meera. In six months each kid has gone out twice – once with each parent. This month we completed a full 12-month rotation – a whole year of First Fridays – and it is truly one of the BEST THINGS WE’VE EVER DONE FOR OUR FAMILY!
Spending alone-time with each kid is absolutely heavenly. We see a different side of them, and they see a different side of us. We can cater to them individually (picking a restaurant that their siblings might not enjoy as much as they would, listening to music in the car on the way that they particularly like, or running a special errand after dinner that is just for them). And we can talk in a focused way, for an extended period of time, with the individual kid. Our First Fridays have become invaluable in the life of our family.
The first couple of months it was hard to stick to it. By Fridays we’re all exhausted from the week, and often the last thing that Braydon or I really want to do is gather up the gumption to head out of the house for the evening. But it was immediately apparent just how incredibly important the one-on-one time was… for us ALL. Soon enough (by the third or fourth month), our routine was established, and now it comes very easy to us.
What we’ve learned is that a nice chunk of intentional time, blocked off on the calendar once a month, devoted fully to one-on-one, goes a long, long, long way. The special alone-time is something to look forward to when it is approaching, something to savor when it is happening, and something that anchors us as we remember our times together fondly. After doing it for a full year now I can honestly say that all five of us are thriving with our First Fridays— and we hope they will last forever (or at last until Braydon and I are empty nesters!).
Heather Johnson is a mother of three; Associate Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University; and wife to her best friend and soul-mate, Braydon McCormick. Braydon is the founder and CEO of rVibe, an Internet technology company. They adopted their twin sons, Kyle and Owen, from Haiti in 2005. Their daughter, Meera, was born in 2008. They keep a family blog at johnson-mccormick.com, which chronicles their ‘never-a-dull-moment life’ as a progressive, dual-career, inter-racial, adoptive, outdoorsy, travel-loving, foodie, family of five.