Your bride gives you the news: This Friday night I’m going out with the girls, so you’re on kid duty. Good luck!

Great. Now what?!?

First of all, CHILL! This is your chance to be the hero, to show the full potential of your dad skills, and to give both your kids and your partner a memorable night.

Here are three dad-hacks for when Mom is gone and Dad’s in charge:

1. Make memories!

Dads have a special way of giving their children memories that will stay with them well into adulthood. I still remember the fun I had playing laser tag in the house with my dad one evening with all the lights off – something I’m sure Mom wouldn’t be caught dead in the middle of.

Give your kids an experience that’s not part of their typical routine.

  • Have a Nerf gun war.
  • Heat up some pizza rolls, turn the lights out and watch a (kid-appropriate) scary movie (the Goosebumps movies are a favorite in my house).
  • Go for a night walk around the neighborhood. Or better yet, if there are woods nearby, take a night hike.
  • Roast hot dogs or marshmallows in the backyard. (Marshmallows over the stove are good if there’s no backyard.)
  • Have a talent show.
  • Let your kiddos dress you up and have a fashion show.
  • Set up a WWE wrestling ring in the living room with couch pillows and… well, you know the rest.

This is your chance to be the dad-hero to your kids for turning what could be a boring night (without Mom) into an amazing memory!

2. …But, don’t step outside what you and your partner value as parents.

What I mean here is, don’t violate the boundaries of what you’ve established together as important to your family just because Mom is gone. If weekend bedtimes are important because there’s an early morning soccer game, be sure to wrap up the fashion show or wrestling match on time. If you don’t normally allow scary movies in the house, opt for a Disney movie – or even better, one that you grew up with – which the kids haven’t seen (think Old Yeller, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.,).

The idea is to avoid compromising what you’ve both decided is important to your family just because Mom is not there to say no. It may make Dad look like the hero, but if it makes Mom out to be the bad guy (now or later), it’s not worth the risk. Trust me on this one.

3. Celebrate Mom coming home.

Making memories with Dad while Mom is away can have the potential to dishonor Mom.

Think about it: Mom finally gets a night out with the girls to unwind, comes home and finds half-eaten pizza rolls on the coffee table, couch cushions scattered on the floor and Nerf darts in every corner and cranny of the room – not to mention it’s midnight and the kids are still up watching Interview With a Vampire while Dad is asleep on the couch. So much for unwinding.

Instead, teach your children how to honor Mom while she’s away. Try to clean the house better than before she left. Print out pictures of your fashion show (yes, even the one of you with your new hair-do) and have the kids put them in cards they make for Mom telling her how special she is. Have the kids pick some flowers on your night hike to give to Mom when she comes come. Just one simple gesture like these can let Mom know she was missed while she was out.

If Mom comes home early before your festivities are over, prep the kids to greet her with hugs and kisses at the door. And if she’s up to it, bring her into the mix – invite her to watch the rest of the movie on the couch, fix her a s’more, or have her be the guest of honor at a special encore presentation of the talent show.

And then let her relax and go to bed while you and the kids clean up!

Allowing your partner to relax and unwind at home after she’s gone out with friends makes you not only a hero to the kids, but especially to her!

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