When we were overwhelmed with our young family of 6 children, we hit on a plan to give individual time and special attention to each child each week. It wasn’t an original idea, but we tried to figure out what would work for us given that my husband traveled a lot. We wanted to do dates with our kids but time and money were scarce. We came up with the idea of “zip dates” meaning fast, fun, and cheap. It was also a way of managing their expectations. “Zip dates” weren’t the same as Mom and Dad’s “date night”. We tried, between the two of us, to go out with each of our children once a week. At the time, 15 years ago, three dollars was our limit and we went for 30-60 minutes. It seemed to be the right amount of time to go for an ice cream cone and find out what our children were thinking about. It was also a doable goal each week between music lessons, sports and church activities. One of my favorite memories, was with my adorable first grader, Chase. He wanted to show me his whole bus stop route. We got a doughnut and then drove the whole route, through winding neighborhoods, Chase directing me and telling me which children got off at each bus stop. It was so fun! This actually ensures that every week you will take the time to deeply connect and savor your child. This little zip date means they will have your full concentration and love focused on them. You are teaching them what loving relationships look like, how to listen, and how to look deep into someone’s eyes without having to look away because you feel awkward. If they are old enough to have a phone leave both of your phones in the car!
As my children have moved into their adult lives, my husband and I still meet with those that live around us, often. We have two sons who live out-of-state, but we make a concentrated effort to zip with the other 4 regularly. I can’t believe how much I learn every time I meet with one of my children. A zip date is always on me. I initiate it most of the time and make sure it happens although lately, my 2 children living at home want to do it at the drop of a hat. I tell them I need 24 hour’s notice to fit it in.
The secret to a successful zip date is that you are a good listener.
Stephen Covey says in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Families”, that when you are doing these one on one activities with your children you have no agenda. No agenda! You just enjoy them, and love them unconditionally.
They will feel your relaxed, loving state and open up like a hot-house flower. They get to vent, ramble, and only if they initiate, ask your advice. A daughter recently kept apologizing that she was talking so much and I said, “ No! Keep going! Keep talking ‘too much’!”
It’s hard being an adult and figuring out everything from taxes to budgeting, to car and career problems. They have concerns about their future plans and wonder about relationships. Your patient ear and undivided attention will be such a blessing to your children. Until this last July, I had two adult children that lived an hour away from me and I would do back to back zip dates with them. We had tried combining the two dates together to be more efficient but it isn’t the same. It has been such a great thing for them to see, “No, it’s important to see you and only you”. Especially when you take the lecturing out of it and show up cheerful and happy to see them.
I have shared this with various friends, and one came up to me this summer and said, “Susan! I don’t know why that one-on-one works so well, but it does! I have learned more going out with my child than I ever could at home or with other family members there.” Another friend from the same book group came up and told me, just last week, essentially the same thing. Taking the time, eliminating distractions, opening up your heart and mind to one of your favorite people helps keep that vital connection that means, “You are so important to me!”
My daughter came home recently after being out with friends. She happily reported she saw her cousin out with her 8-year-old son, at In-N-Out Burger. I smiled to myself and thought, “What a wise mama! She gets it!”