I think most Dads are pretty good at spending the limited time we have on weekday nights with our kids: playing, homework, dinner, get ready for bed and maybe some TV. Pretty standard fare. Weekends are an entirely different animal, but at least you have some help, whether it’s through neighbor kids looking for a pick up game or a planned activity or just extra hands via your spouse. This weekend I had all three boys – 10, 7 and 22 months – all to myself. I’m living proof that you can go it alone while your wife is away — if you follow my tips.
The first mistake most people make is failure to plan. One of the worst things you can do is ask the kids “What do you want to do?”, because the answer back is inevitably something you either don’t want them doing or don’t want to do yourself. It helps when your kids are engaged in activities like Boy Scouts and sports because it can easily eat up several hours of time and wear the kids out a bit.
Tip #2: Plan Group activities
You know how hard it is to watch three kids alone? Then don’t! Find a group activity, schedule play dates, whatever it takes man – but you’re going into this outnumbered and need reinforcements. The aforementioned Scouts and sports are great energy burners that you need in order to accomplish your mission – a reasonable bed time based on exhaustion. 😉
Tip #3: Packaging
Spending a Sunday with Dad during football is great win/win, but since it’s not football season 2/3 of the year you need to think of it from a kid’s perspective: This is the day before school starts and I’ll probably bum around with Dad all day – unless you package it the right way. Another example of packaging:
“Hey kids, who wants to watch moving pictures of a robot?”
Let’s try that again, repackaged:
“Hey kids, who wants to watch killer robots fight each other to death?”
They have no idea what they signed up for but it’s going to be awesome. And then whip out the old clips of BattleBots and they’re pissed. I’m just kidding… We’d watch Transformers. Now back to my point…
Last Sunday was “Awesome Day” with my kids, where everything we did had to meet one simple criteria: Be Awesome. The kids will blurt out activities they think are awesome and then it’s up to Dad to fulfill. One simple “win” is to grab donuts for breakfast as an example of how awesome the day will be. The rest of the day was filled with other awesome activities like MagicQuest and ice cream. They loved it.
Tip #4: Call In The Reinforcements
Don’t think you have to go this alone. Have friends willing to stop by? How about a babysitter? It’s much easier to manage a 14-16 hour day with kids when you have help. I had a sitter come by and watch two of them while I took the middle son out for a Scouting activity. Having a break helps.
Tip #5: Spend Wisely
Don’t be a cheap bastard, Dad. No, I don’t mean drop $500 in a weekend, I’m talking about your time and the opportunity you have to be a hero to your kids. If you’re lucky get to spend a few hours a day with your rug rats each weekday, so this is your chance to create those moments they’ll never forget. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, either. Donuts, the park, sports, Scouting, ice cream and pizza are a cheap way to fill your kids with the junk food they (and we) love while burning calories. Do yourself a favor and makes sure it’s stuff THEY want to do, eat, etc. – otherwise you’re just being a selfish ass.
There are my five guiding principles for surviving a weekend with the kids – and they work. Please share any others you may have in the comments!