I have to tell you something. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I am going on two dates. With two beautiful ladies.
I am (happily) married and, because it’s my birthday, my wife will be taking me out for dinner in the evening. And, though she is wonderful company, intelligent, funny and completely beautiful… while she’s at work I will be dating somebody else.
That somebody else came on the scene about five years ago. She is also very beautiful, courageous, clever, and a bit nuts. Since her brother was born our one-on-one time has fallen off pretty sharply. So, while her brother is in nursery tomorrow, and her mother is at work, I will be on a special birthday date with my daughter. And I can’t wait.
Though we call her The Bookworm – and she really does love to read! – she’s actually very outdoorsy, totally unphased by worms and slugs and animal skulls. She’s also, at five years old, still in the phase where she thinks I am fun and interesting. I’ve heard that doesn’t last forever. But for now, she quite likes joining in with things I like – growing veg in the garden, baking bread, hunting for beasties at the seaside – and I intend to make the most of it.
We’ve decided to pack a picnic and go to the beach at New Brighton. Once there we’re going to pick up a crabbing net and try and catch some crabs from the marina. There will probably be either hot chocolate or chips consumed at some point. And we get to spend precious daddy-daughter time together. I know how rare this is, particularly for dads who work full time (which I have done, though now we have a more flexible arrangement).
Sarah and I often talk about our kids having a ‘love tank’. Obviously we love them all the time, but filling their ‘love tank’ is about making them feel loved. Each child, just like each adult, feels loved and valued through different things – encouraging words, presents, hugs. The Bookworm isn’t that much of a hugger, but she really loves quality time with either or both of us. So as well as tomorrow being about me having a super cool time crabbing with my daughter, it’s also about making sure her ‘love tank’ is topped up, so she knows that she has our love, care and attention. (Because when you have a toddler as a sibling, it probably doesn’t always feel that way.)
We often find that when our kids are acting out the most, it is because we haven’t necessarily been concentrating on filling their ‘love tank’. It’s not usually the easiest option in the moment, when your child is lying on the pavement shouting at you, but it’s something we’re trying to be aware of before we get to that point.
And of course I’m looking forward to going out for a date with Sarah in the evening, eating some wonderful food and coming back to a child-free house (we have the world’s most amazing friends).
Birthdays are great.