I’ve always had a deep resolve to know my kids. I told myself, that if I ever was blessed with children, I would make it my mission to take the time to learn who my children are. I rarely felt fully known or listened to, and I wanted that so deeply for my children. 

And at first? With one kid? Then two? I was on it. I took each of them out regularly and I rocked it. After all, who doesn’t love a goldfish snack and toddler time? Everyone of my kids. Even after we added another kiddo. And another one. I was nailing the ‘date’ times. I was a pro.

And then?

My kids became older, moodier, harder to figure out and didn’t seem that interested in hanging with mom. 

Also life happened, building a house, losing a baby, job changes, homeschooling, pregnant with twins, and daily life challenges…

And I found myself looking at my kids as a whole.

You guys.

You all.

You all need.

I stopped looking at them as individuals.

I soon realized, by the grace of God, that I needed to dig in, even more, with my kids. Gone are {at least for the older kids} the days, of parks and snack time, now are the days of talking, learning and listening.

After the birth of our twins, I have, once again, been reminded that my kids are individuals. Kids have such a deep desire to be known. To be heard. We all do. And after talking with my husband we both resolved to be more intentional about taking our kids out individually. On dates. 

Having six kids, it’s often hard to find time to yourself, let alone, take a kid out. But by the grace of God, time has been provided. 

We’ve had to sacrifice a great deal of our individual time in the process.

And to be honest? It’s been awkward. I find myself tripping and flubbing my way through dates with my kids. But here are a few tips/things I’ve learned:

1. Your kid just wants to be with you. Yes, mom and dad are starting to become not as cool as their friends, but at the end of the day, they do want time with their parents.

2. It will be awkward. There have been a few times the kids and I have simply sat in silence. While I’ve tried to come prepared with questions to ask my kids. “How’s school going?” “If you could get on a plane right now, where would you travel? “”What’s your favorite book/movie/song?” sometimes, even after the question prep, they just shut down. Keep trying. They are trying to figure out their likes and dislikes too, help them. Silence is OK too. Just be. 

3. You will mess it up. Just this past weekend I was trying to think of something that my daughter would like to do, so I asked her if she wanted to see a movie. Because kids don’t always know themselves either, they might say yes to anything you suggest, and she agreed. After the movie, I could tell my daughter didn’t really enjoy it. I was honestly bummed as we only had a small window of time. But on the way home I saw a pet store, knowing my daughter is a animal lover {unlike her mother} I thought she’d enjoy it. And she did. She came alive. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Keep trying. I was feeling defeated after the movie with my daughter and thought I had blown it. But I tried something else. Another time, I took my third boy out to eat and talk with him, he had no desire to talk {He’s not a talker, um clearly.}. I thought I had  blown it then too, but afterwards we went to a park. And all he wanted to do was show me all of the tricks he could do. He came alive. He just wanted me to watch him. It’s OK if a time out is a bust. You’re learning about each other. There’s always next time. 

5. Be a safe place. Your child’s truth can sometimes sting. Look beyond what a child says to hear what they’re trying to say. One of my kids shared on one date that they miss how things were before we had the twins. The wave of mommy guilt came flooding. But they needed to share the struggle of this new season for them. It wasn’t about me, it was about them. Make it about them. I just listened and told them that I could understand how they could feel like that. That was all they needed. To be heard. In the next breath, on their own, they stated though how thankful they are for the babies how much they make them laugh. I just listened. And let them share. They needed it. It’s OK to give your kid advice, but hear them first and validate their feelings. Ask them if they want your advice. They almost always do. 

6. Mix it up. Have a kid suggest what they want to do sometimes, and then other times you suggest it. Trying new things helps your kids figure out their likes and dislikes too. And it helps you as a parent learn about them. 

7. Don’t make it complicated. Figure out what makes them come alive. I’m still working on this one. I want to get to the point where what I suggest fills their joy bucket. One of my boys is a talker, just being heard and encouraged makes him come alive. We can just sit somewhere and talk. Another one of my boys, loves video games, he simply wants me to watch him do video games and talk about all the tricks of the trade he’s learning. One of my boys just wants to play and show me how strong he is. Be flexible. Kid’s needs change. What works one time, might not work the next time. Go with the flow and don’t overthink it.

8. It’s worth it. You are both learning how to do this parent/child gig. It’s OK to admit you don’t know your kid. Take the time. It’s OK to admit a kid is driving you nuts. It’s usually that kid that needs a date time with you the most. Grit your way through it. It’s worth it. It might not always be pretty, but it’s something. And believe me, there are so many times, I just want some me time {which is needed too} but grabbing a kid while I’m going somewhere has yielded some of the sweetest moments, and best laughs.

Our kids might never thank us for what we do. Parenthood is, for the most part, a verbally thankless job. But our kids need us. They need to be heard. You need it. We get one shot with our kids. Suck the marrow out of it. There’s no guarantees that any fruit will come from it. Our kids might leave home and never look back. But at least we had these sweet moments with them. Even if we bomb it. 

It has been really fun getting to know my kids again. Maybe even for the first time.

Kid dates have been worth it. 

So worth it.

Awkwardness and all.

Kathy Jacobitz

Wife of 14 years to my college love. Mother of 4 kids ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and of {surprise!} twins due July 2015. A Lincoln native, now an unconventional prairie wife living deep in the heart of southeast Nebraska for over a decade. Always a city girl at heart. A former high school teacher, now a current homeschooling mom. Always in process. Thankful for Divine restoration and Grace. Runs solely on coffee. I blog over at The J Crew .{http://thejcrew-kj.blogspot.com/}