Someday, my son will want to take someone on a date. He’ll be nervous and excited. He’ll wonder what to wear, what to talk about, how to carry himself.
I don’t want the first time he does this to be on his own; I don’t want it to feel completely foreign.
This is why we practice dates in our household, not only with one another, but with our child, as well.
I want him to know the importance of setting aside time for someone and giving them his full attention when he does so. I want him to know that it’s nice to put effort into feeling your best, not only for yourself but so that you can show up as your best self for others. I want him to know how to walk up to the door and pick somebody up instead of sitting in the driveway and honking the horn, expecting them to come outside.
At age 7, there’s only so much he can do himself to be involved in the planning and execution of this, but we try to set the example now by taking him to dinners with us to see how we interact, as well as taking him on individual “dates”. About once a month or so, one of us will pick an afternoon and make a point of asking in advance if he would like to go see a movie or get sushi lunch at his favorite place. To see his face light up knowing he’s going to have that special time with us is a reward in and of itself and I hope one day when he’s older it will be reciprocated by somebody whom he asks to spend time with.
We make it a point to get ready to go out, just as we would with anybody else. We make an effort to put away the technology during the “date” and really spend that one on one time together. Someday, he will be on a date on his own and I want him to be able to look back on these times as an example, not only of how he should conduct himself, but how he should expect to be treated by somebody who really values his time.
I don’t remember having these sorts of “dates” regularly as a kid, and then when I got older and dating was super awkward, I thought about how if maybe the precedent had been set earlier, I wouldn’t have been as nervous. How I maybe would have expected more from the people who were asking to spend that kind of quality time with me.
We’re not just raising sons and daughters; we’re raising somebody’s future partner. It doesn’t mean we can anticipate every awkward moment and how to navigate it for them. It doesn’t mean we can save them from heartbreaks or people who may not be their best match. It doesn’t even mean we’re ensuring that they’re always going to have the best judgement. It just means that we make an effort to raise people who are going to be able to navigate relationships in healthy ways, who will have the confidence to put themselves out there and know that their worth doesn’t lie in one person’s opinions of them. We’re raising each other’s kid’s future partners; our future sons and daughters in law. Let’s make an effort to set our future generations up knowing how to navigate what can be the most difficult but most rewarding part of our journey.