I am a father of a beautiful 8-year-old daughter and a handsome 10-year-old son. I live here, but the mother lives in California. The mother has custody, but the children will be visiting with me for the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. While I don’t have much time given the distance between the mother’s house and mine, I really want to make the time count that I do have. I can take two of the weeks off from work, but I have to work two of the weeks. What suggestions do you have?
– Dedicated Dad
Dear Dedicated Dad,
Making memories is the most important thing you can do with your children. Close your eyes a moment, and ask yourself, what do I remember from the summer when I was 8 and 10 years old? I have asked this question to many people and hardly ever hear about memories that include who did the child’s laundry or took care of day-to-day living needs. I want to encourage you that you can make memories in this short time and you can even be a very influential parent if you use your limited time wisely.
You want to be a hands on Dad with whatever you elect to do. When selecting the four weeks that you and your son and daughter will spend together, make sure that it is your children’s best interests that are foremost in your mind. I would start with the children’s natural interests and not your own . A Dad who forces his personal pastimes on a child who is not interested in the same things almost always will not create a great memory. For example, if you are a fishing addict, do not assume that your children will love to fish. You might introduce the fishing sport to your children, but do not take them fishing every day.
Vary the activities. Make a list of 10 activities that are age appropriate and make a game out of each child selecting the top three activities he or she would like to do this summer. Make memories by documenting the activities and achievements of each child with lots of photos and video. Also, consider making an activities journal for each child to take back to Mother’s house. You might even keep a color copy for yourself, so that next time the children visit you, you can review the memories with the children.
Since you have to work some of the time, you will need to have some day camps, so pick these carefully, focusing on the children’s pursuits in mind over your own.
Depending on your budget, take at least one trip that will be a “wow” trip, if at all possible. Document the trip with lots of photos and video and make a trip journal for each child.
Throughout the next year, refer to the pictures and the journals with the children when you talk with them or video chat with them.
All the best in the coming weeks making memories that count for this summer and beyond!
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This blog revised from a previous column published in the Rhino Times.