Monday, May 11, 2009

Something that has worked for me: Special Days

It all started 5 or 6 years ago. I had 4 kids and noticed I was always buying things to do together with the kids, but never did them. It was always "when I have time." Something about 4 kids and a husband in residency (if my memory is correct I was incubating #5 at the time) prevented there ever being that time. My solution to this problem was something I called "Special Days with Mom." Each child got a set aside time to spend with Mom. No interruptions or other children allowed. The kids loved it and I kept it up for a couple months.

I revived the tradition my first summer in North Carolina (almost) 4 years ago. This time we had long term goals. I remember that Elise and I made a quilt and Ryan and I made a volcano. Kirsti and Ethan did more one day craft things. We lasted through the end of summer, but things tapered off when school started.

But the idea stuck. I was periodically asked when we were starting special days again. We would occasionally do it here or there, but not regularly. But the kids were persistent, so at the beginning of this year I restarted the tradition. I assigned each kid a specific day and they get 30-45 minutes alone with mom. It is interesting to see the kids choices: Elise prefers crafts, Ethan games, Ryan and Kirsti love to cook things, and Joseph and Matthew will do anything- as long as they get to yell "You can't help, it's my special day!" to anyone who dares enter their line of sight.

30 minutes may not seem like a lot, but the little "What my mom does for me" fill in the blanks the kids filled out at school for Mother's Day were about 1/2 filled with special day activities. When I went to my grandmother's funeral and was gone a week, I thought the kids hardly noticed, till they all produced their list of things they wanted to do on their special days the next week.

The children look forward to their days and spend a lot of time deciding their activities. One kid (not one of the little ones) burst into tears when I forgot to pick up the ingredients for pumpkin pie and he had to wait an extra week to make it. Some weeks we have a theme: crafts, puzzle or learning activities, card games, etc. But more often than not I let them decide whatever their heart desires (as long as it is under an hour and we have the products on hand).

Here are some things that work for me:

  1. Don't let it take too long. There is limited time after school and if I take too long, I am tempted to start skipping.
  2. Assign days. I double up 2 each on Tues., Wed., & Fri. If our schedule gets messed up I make up on Saturday or Sunday.
  3. Make themes sometimes. If there is something I want to do, we go with my choice that week (but I let them know before hand). Usually they get to pick but for sanity sometimes I get my choice.
  4. Listen for things they mention would be fun or they show interest in when the other kids choose it. That way if they can't decide you have ideas ready.
  5. Enjoy the time. Don't worry about what isn't getting done, what you are getting done is far more important.

Obviously I have stopped and started this over and over. The kids still love it, even if I only keep it up for a couple months. My goal is to keep it going this time, but if I fail, they still have the memory. And, like I said, they'll keep asking to do it again. What better testimonial to effectiveness is there?


  1. This sounds awesome. Supposing you had two three year olds, how do you keep the other three year old out of the way? hmmm..........maybe they'd buy it if I just did fun things with them at the same time. They sure get happy when I break out the playdough.

    You are a rockin' mom.

  2. Really is a great idea and like you said, it is the special things like that they will always remember, whether it happens regularly or not.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been struggling for a long time to come up with something like this that I could stick to. I really like your idea and plan to copy it.

    And just a side note: I truly enjoy your blog. Every time I read it I'm laughing hysterically, or moved to tears, and enlightened by a different perspective. Don't ever stop :)

  4. I am glad you have stuck with it. I think I will try this over the summer and see how it goes.

  5. This is great advice---if you LIKE your kids.

    No really---this is great and as with all the great ideas you share--I'm totally adopting it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    p.s. pumpkin pie makes me cry too.

  6. I think it's awesome that you have the energy to keep up with these special days. I don't. For us what works is having Kent take one-on-one date nights each week, rotating through the kids. They love it, and I try to use that time to play a game or make a treat with the other four. My dad did it with us when I was little, and I still remember those times.

    Surprising the kids by showing up at school to take them out for lunch is also another favorite--if infrequent--time for us. We usually reserve that one for a sort-of good-grade reward. (I should win an award for my use of hyphens and dashes!)

  7. Kimberly - When I only had my twins, dad and I would take turns taking them so they each got a mommy date or daddy date each week.

    Charlotte - I loved this idea when you told me about it months ago and I still do. I should get your kids to rave about it to my kid so my kids will make me do it.

  8. This is a great idea. So you do it every week? We do "Mommy dates" when Nathan has a week of nightfloat. I take each of the children out on a date of their choice and the others stay home and watch a movie while Daddy sleeps. They love it. We've done things like an ice cream cone or a candy bar. The most memorable was in March and each child went alone with me to Once Upon A Child to pick out a new spring outfit. Then they got a treat afterward. That was their big one and it was a lot of fun. But usually it's something small and cheap like just going to the park to talk. It's been great. But I like your idea of doing things at home too, especially since night float doesn't come all that often.

  9. This is a great idea. With just one kid I assume I'm going to do things with her, but I see it not happening already. Plus this would be good for Dad to have special time too.

  10. I think this a great idea. This post has made me determined to revive date nights again before all the kids leave home.