Posts

DAD HACKS: For When Mom Is Having A Girl’s Night Out

These three things are what memories are made of.

Your bride gives you the news: This Friday night I’m having a girl’s night out, so you’re on dad 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’s at girl’s night out and Dad’s in charge:

1. Make memories!

Dads have a unique 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 potentially 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 that can let Mom know you missed her 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 a hero to the kids, AND to her, too!

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com

A young man burst into the medical office, walked right around the counter and grabbed my wife. This rude interloper hugged her tightly, crying, saying “I love you so much, Mom!” My wife was shocked and then delighted and touched. They had a wonderful, spontaneous, tear-filled moment right there in her office in front of staff and patients. This is certainly not typical teenage boy behavior. What prompted this sudden outpouring of emotion and affection from my teenage son?

The dots are actually easy to connect. A little earlier, he stopped by my office after class. I showed him the journal that my wife kept about him during his childhood to preserve her child’s memories. My son spent about an hour reading this journal and all of the memories that it had captured. Then he stuffed it in his backpack and promptly left my office and drove straight to my wife’s workplace to express his love and appreciation. A notebook sparked all of this.

For each of our five children, my wonderful wife kept a little notebook where she jotted down anecdotes, funny quotes, little moments, and dreams.

You know all the things that you think you will always remember as a parent but the sad reality is that they get lost to time? She really has them. Moments catalogued and dated. They are a treasure. They are a time capsule of a parent’s love and devotion. These journals stir up nostalgia, laughter, and tears. They’re a perfect visual for your child’s memories.

When I think about social media and how parents post about their kids, I can’t help but wonder if these digital memories will have the same impact as my wife’s journals. In fact, I think there is a generation of kids that are going to be upset when they get older – “Mom, I can’t believe you put THAT on Facebook!”

One of the biggest differences between social media and my wife’s journals is that the journals are strictly between my wife and kids.

The journals are incredibly personal and intimate. Social media is a digital stage that invites the world to judge and validate moments through likes, shares, and comments. Sometimes I wonder what really is motivating parents to post some of what gets shared on social media…

What I love the best about these journals is that they represent a legacy. Unlike the internet, they are tangible and concrete. They can be built upon and perhaps passed on to the next generation so a grandchild or great-grandchild is connecting with preceding generations that are long gone. It preserves my child’s memories. I’m so grateful that my wife invested the time into these journals and into my children. Her example makes me wonder what I am passing down to my children.

A watch, a military medal, letters, photo albums – little tokens infused with meaning and significance that become the connective tissue from one generation to the next. Totems that represent a legacy. Whatever the item, it only has meaning because of the relationship built around it. I wonder how many items in estate sales were meant to be treasured and passed down instead of sold to the highest bidder?

What are you passing down to your kids?

  • Journal or notebook filled with thoughts and memories
  • Letters that you write that you don’t give your child until they are 18
  • An album of photographs of you and your child
  • A collection of “found items” from places you’ve been- napkins, coasters, knick-knacks
  • Something that’s been passed down to you that you have talked to your child about and made meaningful to them

Image from Unsplash.com

Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of. But he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in my soul.”

As Vaughn was going through his father’s things, he kept looking for something left from his dad to him. The only thing he found was a rusty old fishing tackle box.

“I was mad at my dad for dying,” Vaughn says. “I was mad at myself for not trying harder to connect with him and started to throw that old fishing box in the trash. Then I decided to see what was inside. There, I found the remains of my father – fishing lures.

“As I felt myself getting angrier, a question popped into my head, ‘Hey big shot, you are out here mad at the world. If you were to die here in the garage, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?’”

The answer caught Vaughn by surprise. He had always told his children and wife how much he loved them. Additionally, they made it a point to go on family vacations, which brought great memories. However, when it came to something tangible they could hold in their hands and treasure forever from him, he couldn’t think of anything he had given them. That’s when he had the idea for Letters from Dad.

“I called 12 of my closest friends and asked them if any of them had a letter of love and blessing from their father – not counting cards,” Vaughn says. “Not a single one of them said yes. Then I asked, ‘What would you give to have one?’ The answer was always, ‘More than you could imagine.’ Then I asked each of them if they had ever written a letter like that to their children. None of them had. I looked at each of them and said, ‘Don’t you think we should?’”

That was the beginning of a very special journey for these men. They decided they wanted to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love through the lost art of letter writing.

“Men hate to write letters,” Vaughn states. “But we decided to write four letters, the first being a letter of blessing to our wives. We had some divorced men in the group. One guy chose to write a letter to his ex-wife of 10 years thanking her for making him a father. It was a healing experience for both of them.”

The second letter the group decided to write was a blessing to their children. Since Vaughn has seven children, that was a real stretch for him.

Vaughn’s daughter, Brooke, shared that until her dad gave her a letter of blessing, her most-prized possession was a coat hanger from age 10 where her father wrote, “Hey Beck – I love you – Dad.” On her 22nd birthday, she got the letter with 15 reasons why she was a blessing as a daughter. Now she says, “I have more than a coat hanger to remember my dad.”

“The third letter we chose to write was a blessing to our parents,” Vaughn remembers. “Some of us had parents who had died so we wrote letters of tribute. The fourth and final letter was by far the hardest to write. It was for our families to read after we died. Most of us leave wills and trusts and rusty old stuff. What do we leave for our families to treasure forever?”

After they finished writing their letters, the guys decided to continue meeting monthly just to stay in touch and walk the fathering journey together.

Letters from Dad has increased in popularity as fathers seek to leave a legacy to their wives and children. If you hate to write or find yourself at a loss for words, the book has lots of samples. Plus, the author is happy for you to use some of the words yourself.

Whether your children are young or old, live near or far, are estranged from you or considering never leaving the fold, you can still leave a legacy. So, consider writing a letter… or two.

My parents had 2 main ways to communicate with the outside world: a landline phone and a television. When they wanted to communicate with someone, they either called them, stepped outside and talked to them in the front yard, or got in the car and drove to see them. They’d talk for hours about everything and nothing.

Fast forward to my time of adulthood, and I’ve got a cell phone, tablet, laptop and a television all synced together to make my life “easier.” If I want to communicate with someone, I never actually call them: I text, email, Instagram, use Facebook Messenger, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, all created in part so that I could have more “meaningful” and better-connected relationships. But, I could talk with people all day through these platforms and never know them as well as my parents knew the neighbor they’d talk to once a month for a couple of hours.

I’ve noticed a trend in romantic relationships, too. Everywhere I go I run into an old married couple who started dating when they were in high school or who met in their first year of college. The majority of my friends and colleagues had 6 or 7 girlfriends by the time they finished college, married someone they met near the end of college or at their first real job, and are now divorced. I can’t help but wonder if the ability to constantly communicate with anyone we choose is such a distraction to us, we’ve forgotten how to truly know someone and work through a relationship with them.

Mom and dad made adulthood look easy. With all the technology and access we have today, why does it feel so much harder?

Should we go back to the “good ol’ days?” I’m not saying we should give up our cell phones, shut down our tablets and trade Netflix for NBC or CBS. I mean, there are good things about technology. It has the ability to help us out when we’re in danger, and remind us of important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, plus we can connect with people around the world that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to talk to.

I wonder what would happen if we slowed down and developed relational depth with those we care about. Doing this requires a few things like:

  • Prioritizing meaningful conversations and interactions with one person instead of constantly engaging in a group text message with 10 people. In other words, instead of trying to keep up with what EVERYONE is doing, we can have conversations and find out what’s really important to the people we care about most.
  • Support people in real life, not just through a like or follow on social media. For example, offer to take a friend dinner when they buy a new house instead of just liking their “We bought a new house!” picture on social media.
  • Re-evaluate and trim the list of who is most important to you. Make some difficult adult decisions to simplify your life when it comes to relationships. Just because you’re friends on social media, or text occasionally, doesn’t mean you’re truly friends. Find those folks you want to go deeper with and be intentional about taking time to make it happen.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships, it’s this: It’s not about how often you talk to someone you care about, it’s about really being present with them in the moments you’re with them.

It can be hard to be keeping your sanity with the kids when it’s cold outside. There are plenty of parents doing the happy dance as they whisk their children back to school after the holidays. Moms or dads whose children stay with them all the time may be wringing their hands at this point though, trying to creatively keep their kids occupied and not begging to play games on electronic devices. 

Depending on the age of your children, inside activities may be the order of the day when you need to start keeping your sanity with the kids when it’s cold outside. To help you stay sane and create some really fun memories, here are some ideas from other parents you might want to try.

One mom presented her kids with a challenge. She gave them jello packets with sweetened, colored gelatin and let them add anything else they needed to make sparkly, fizzing explosions. They knew the jello powder wouldn’t react explosively with anything, so they added baking soda and sparkles. They also knew that vinegar or lemon juice reacts with baking soda, making their concoction bubble to the top getting the eruption/explosion they wanted. As a result, they decided to mix all their dry ingredients together first and then add the vinegar or lemon juice for a better effect.

Sometimes when it’s cold outside it’s fun to pretend it’s not. Crank up the heat a little, put on some shorts and let your kids make homemade no-churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream. Not sure how to do that?

Here’s what you’ll need to keep your sanity with your kids: 

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue food coloring
  • 20 Oreos or something similar, and 
  • 15 chocolate chip cookies. 

Put 15 Oreos and 10 chocolate chip cookies in a plastic bag and break them into chunks. Set aside. Whip heavy cream, food coloring and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Beat in condensed milk until color is uniform. Add additional food coloring if needed. Fold in broken cookies and transfer to loaf pan. Break up all remaining cookies and use to decorate top of pan. Place in freezer for at least 5 hours and then enjoy! 

Recreating recipes are great activities to practice counting, naming colors, measuring specific amounts and talking about the difference in the way we measure liquid and dry ingredients – all in the midst of doing something fun.

Present your children with some random things you have around the house such as a box (shoebox, shipping box, shirt boxes, etc), unused paint stir sticks, newspaper, tape, popsicle sticks, paper plates, paper cups, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and whatever else you can find; then challenge them to create something.  

Still need more ideas? Break out the playdough or board/card games. Build a fort inside the house or have a contest doing something fun like dancing, singing or cooking. Think of some things you enjoyed or wanted to do as a kid and recreate the experience for your kids. Ask other parents what they do or plan a craft you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t yet. You might even do a quick online search for fresh ideas or inside activities using items you already have in your home. 

If you’ve ever seen a child spend hours playing with a box, you know just how creative they can be. Imagine what kids can do with just a little direction here and there. Some kids will jump right in to a new activity while others balk at leaving electronics behind. But chances are, whatever you plan for them will satisfy and stimulate them way more than staring at a screen ever will. Plus, they’ll remember it longer, too.

Image from Unsplash.com

Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

Navigating the in-law situation takes some skill.

Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling “The Thanksgiving from Hell.”

It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That’s why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there’s a little flexibility.

For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

  • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families – and they are going to act how they act.

  • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

  • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

  • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won’t take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you’ll have some great stories to tell your friends.

  • It’s just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening – and that soon you’ll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) – can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

  • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay – and then leave at the predetermined time. If you’re traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning (along with a good attitude) can help you make holiday memories, not misery.

 

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***