When our older kids turned twelve (girls) or thirteen (boys), they began to have a special privilege known as “half birthday dates.” At the 12 ½ (or 13 ½) year old mark, that child got taken out to dinner with Mom and Dad for a unique dinner date.
The first date was a time for the son or daughter to re-commit to purity (and for the girls, included a purity/promise ring)— and included a long conversation affirming all of the teaching that they had received up to this point about our relationship standards. (For our family, this has included a commitment not to “date around” but to only begin seeing someone when he or she is ready to get married and thinks the person could be a life partner. (Of course, they didn’t have to plan to marry the person—they just needed to both be ready to think about marriage, and the person needed to be someone that our child would consider as a potential mate—not just seeing people, dating around, etc.).
Beyond that first half birthday date, our kids’ “half dates” have included the child choosing a restaurant and a night out with Mom and Dad to talk about goals, friends, siblings, academics, ministry, and more. It was a novel idea that we carried out for many, many years.
This tradition has gone by the way for us today—as it served its purpose in establishing times away for one child and Mom and Dad during the child’s teen and young adults years. However, it is no longer needed in a formal manner since we have “dates” with our teens and young adults much more regularly than at the half birthday mark today.
(A few years ago—)As a matter of fact, as I type this, we are driving home from South Carolina to bring our son home from his internship with the Academy of Arts. We just did a “dinner date” with our daughter and son-in-law the night before we left to come to SC. The night before that found us eating dinner alone with our seventeen year old after his first day of college classes. As we drive home today, we will sit down with our son at one of his favorite spots. In a few days, one of our daughters will be home with her boy friend, and the four of us will sit down alone one evening. A few days after that, another daughter will be home for a short visit, and Mom, Dad, and daughter will go to her favorite spot. (Yes, it costs money and calories—both of which we save just for these occasions—time with our kids is more of a priority to us than a beautifully decorated house or expensive vehicles.)
When our olders were younger, we would sometimes do “dates” one on one with the little kids, too. These could be as simple as getting an ice cream cone at McDonalds and going to the park to walk and see the buffalo or taking a bike ride. Time with our kids one-on-one doesn’t always have to cost a lot. Once again, the point is that each child knows that Mom and Dad want to spend time alone with that child—and we will go to great lengths to be sure that happens.
And that each child knows that Mom and Dad want to talk to them—to really talk to them.