One of my favorite memories as a child was going to the bookstore with my dad. Fireside Books, in Eureka, California. I can see it in my head.
Every so often he’d take me, and we’d both get a book. It was a special time, something he and I did. We didn’t necessarily talk much, but both would look at books and hang out.
One year as a surprise, he made special arrangements with the owners to send me a book in the mail every couple months. Great books, awesome books, that I still remember to this day. But as special as that was, it was those trips to the book store that stay with me.
In fact, to this day I can tell you the layout of that book store, where everything important to me was. And it always brings back warm, fuzzy memories of happy times with my dad and books.
Not too many years ago, when Kgirl was Little E’s age, I taught a writing class called “Unlocking the Writer Within”, and one of my students was one of the former owners of Fireside Books. She and I had a great time reminiscencing over the beloved book store, long since closed.
This afternoon, as I was out with Little E for her special time, she reminded me of how special one-on-one times are. Memories. Impressions, Emotions. She shared with me how she loves special time and how she wants to do special time with her kids when she’s a mom. So sweet, and so important.
I started “special time” years ago, when Kgirl was just 4 or 5 and I had to return to working full-time in an office. It was a brief period, two years, but the only time in her life that I’ve not worked from home. During that time, once a week I’d take little Kgirl out for ice cream and special time with mom. Away from her brothers, away from errands and responsibilities and conversations with Dad. Just her and I.
Later, I added a special time for J.
But once I was working from home again, we stopped special time. I thought, “hey, I’m home all the time now. we don’t need it.”
A few years ago, Kgirl was off at a friends for a weekend, and Little E was feeling left out. So she and I decided to do a special time out, just her and I. But what I didn’t bargain for was J’s reaction. My big 10 year old boy teared up and quietly shared, “I miss special time”.
So we brought back special time. Our budget was tiny to start, just $10 a week. Each Saturday of each month is our special time night. The rotation goes youngest to oldest, with Little E on the first Saturday of the month and Kgirl on the 4th Saturday of the month.
After a time, the kids asked for a special time with their dad too. And it just wasn’t feasible to do two special times a week – from a money and a time standpoint. So now we alternate months as to which parent is on special time.
We found $10 a week rather restrictive, so now it’s $20/week. Enough for a movie at the cheap seats and a meal out, if that’s what someone wants to do. But the kids get to decide the agenda. It’s their special time with mom or dad, but also their time to choose the activity.
Sometimes It’s a movie and a meal, sometimes a walk around the mall and dinner out, sometimes a visit to the paint-your-own-cermaics place and a ponder at the book store. Ice cream is a favorite as is the dollar store.
If there’s a Groupon deal I think the kids will like, I’ll get them to save for a special time. Special things that we only can afford if there’s a deal, like ice cream or paintball, or big things we’d never do otherwise, like sailing.
Special time is now a permanent event on our calendar. A time with each of the kids, to hang out, and do what they like to do. To talk, or not. To just be together. My olders love it just as much as the youngers.
What does your family do for special time?