Special Nights

Tonight was Hazel’s ‘special’ night.  She gets it once a month.

I read about this on a blog at some point—I wish I could credit it with a link, but it was just a passing blog post in the sea of too much information.  In any case, it wasn’t my idea, but we have adopted it as our own.

The idea is this: we have a lot of kids.  It’s hard to give all the kids individual time.  And as they get older, it will become even more challenging with sports and social lives and more sports and life.  And as much as I think our kids benefit from each other’s company (most of them are much better than I am at playing pretend), I know they also crave alone time with Kullervo and me.

Enter: their special night.  On the date of their birthday each month, the kids get to stay up late.  And if that date happens to fall on a Friday or a Saturday night, they get to stay up extra late and watch a movie or play a longer game with us.  If their date falls during the week, they’ll stay up long enough to read an extra chapter of whatever book they’re reading with me, or to play a short game, or hang out while we do chores.

Even better—Oliver and Hazel’s dates are always a week apart, so their weekend, extra-late nights always fall in the same month (which makes delayed gratification that much easier).

I didn’t realize what a game changer this would be.  The kids look forward to their date with a ferocity that surprised me.  So much so that it isn’t something we take away even for the worst of behavioral offenses—for them, right now, it’s too big a deal.

Last weekend, when it should have been Oliver’s night, I had had a really long day full of people and activities and I was totally spent.  So we agreed to postpone his night until this weekend.

So, last night we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Oliver.  He loved it.  And getting to snuggle with my boy as we watched, and getting to watch him squirm with the emerging romantic interests in the movie, and hearing him make connections and tell jokes and play off of our jokes is fulfilling in a parental way I hadn’t realized existed.  This is a kid who is growing up, and it turns out he’s clever and he’s funny.  And we stopped the movie partway through to discuss and make connections about Harry Potter stories and Christianity and the lessons we can learn as Christians from the books and movies.

Tonight we watched We Bought A Zoo with Hazel.  We’ve actually seen it before—it was the very first movie that our kids ever saw in the movie theater.  Hazel didn’t remember it (she was two), and watching her watch the movie brought me so much joy.  She still hides her head under a blanket during any intense parts (and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll realize there really are none… but she hid anyway).  She still gets all giggly whenever there is romance.  And she loved that the child in the movie was her age.  The most cringe-worthy moment in the movie happened when Matt Damon (can we get a collective ‘ahhhh’?  No?  Just me?) was talking about how his daughter still believed in the Easter Bunny… and Hazel said. “Um, I still believe in the Easter Bunny!”… and the daughter in the movie steps out and asks, “What’s the deal with the Easter Bunny?”  …awkward silence…

Anyway…

The kids really look forward to their special nights.  But I don’t know if they realize that I do as well.  And I imagine that as they grow older, these nights will become even more significant in their lives—and in ours—and in the relationships that we want to have with them.

So, if you have a bunch of kids (or, you know, one)… try having a special night set apart for them!  Again, I didn’t come up with the idea, but I wholeheartedly endorse it.  Especially if your kids are as cool as mine.

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