Years ago, I had the idea of not only regularly dating and pursuing our kids (which we do) but annually taking them on a fancy date. The kind where you get dressed up, go out to a nice sit-down restaurant and treat them to a lovely time. I do not love celebrating Valentine’s Day between Brett and I (I’d prefer he and I pursue each other that way all year round when the cost of flowers and chocolates are not doubled) but thought we could use the annual holiday as a reminder that it is time to take the kids out. Let’s be honest, if we aren’t intentional with things like this, they get away from us. Also, February is a month without any of our family’s birthdays, etc so it’s a nice time of year to do something fun.
We have been taking Elle and Johnny on these fancy dates for seven years now. They have come to expect getting dressed up, taking pictures, and doing the whole romantic night out. It’s become their norm that mom and dad would spend that kind of money on them and go to such lengths to spoil them with affection and adoration. They know people (usually our servers and on-lookers at the restaurants) will compliment them on how nice they look and friends will honor them from social media posts. Essentially, while this is not our normal dating ritual year-round, they have come to love these special times and are comfortable with the love and affection that comes with them. They know they are worthy of it all.
And that is the point. I desire for my kids to know that they are loved, wholly and completely, regardless of their performance, behaviors, successes, or failures. I want them to know and expect that they’ll be treated with respect, kindness, and so much more. Further, I hope to teach them that ALL humans are worthy of this same treatment. This year was especially fun because it was Esther’s first fancy date. She is two and doesn’t quite get the concept. In preparation, we allowed Elle to go the night before so Esther could see what all goes down. All the while I helped Elle with her hair, makeup, and outfit choices, Elle spent the time explaining to Esther that she would get to do the same tomorrow. She described that daddy will likely have flowers or a special gift for her and to be sure to say “thank you”. She told Esther that “you are a princess and daddy is like your prince. He will take to you get some yummy food and tell you how wonderful and pretty you are the whole time.” You see, Elle has already caught that there is more than enough love to go around. She is not threatened that because Esther (and eventually Emilia) will have a turn with daddy that her time is diminished or any less special. In fact, Elle even asked to add a movie to their date this year, fully expectant that Brett would love to do that with her.
Brett and I take our children out on these special dates to imprint in their hearts that this kind of love and affection should be their normal and that they can pass that same honor and abundance onto others without hesitation. The Bible says that “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4.19) Our children will have the ability to pour out extravagant love to others because they have grown up in a home where they are extravagantly loved. Because of this, my children will be world changers.
Lastly, there is also the practical side of this. Someday, my children will go to their first school dances and get asked out on their first dates. I want my children to know how to expect to be treated and how to treat the wonderful person on the other side of the table. I want Elle and Esther to know it’s okay to stand back and allow a man to open her door, pull out her chair, and show other signs of honor. I want Johnny to comfortably navigate a conversation with a lady at the table while asking questions and listening to the answers. I desire for my children to walk confidently into these rights-of-passage moments in life knowing they are a prize to be delighted in and that the person they are with is equally loved by God and deserving of their honor too. How will they know this if I haven’t taken the time to teach and model this myself?
Lastly, I want my children to feel empowered to boldly stand up for themselves and others when they’re not being treated with honor. The only way they can do this is if they’ve experienced enough real love to acknowledge and spot a counterfeit for what it is. We consistently have conversations in our home about protecting others who cannot protect themselves and standing up for what is right at the hardest moments. We don’t always get it right but we are certainly doing our best to love big and teach our children to do the same.