Submitted by Rick Steffens
When my two kids were in grade school, I needed to travel for work a lot. To be sure I stayed connected with them in a meaningful way, I wanted to establish a fun, special and easily repeatable activity that would make it clear to them that our relationship was one of my top priorities. After some discussion, we decided I would take each of them out for lunch once a month.
When we were just starting out, I didn't really think it was a big deal. But every time I picked one of them from school, the teacher would tell me that they were really excited.
The rules were simple. The child got to pick the restaurant, and they got to decide how long we stayed. I cleared the plan with the teacher in case the conversation ran long. I was amazed by how often they told me they HAD to be back at school by a certain time so they didn’t miss a lesson or activity (even when the teacher had told me it was OK for them to skip it). The only other rule was that we would talk about them, what they were doing (in school or elsewhere), and what was on their mind. We weren't to talk about me or what I was doing, unless it was on their mind.
We did learn that eating in the school cafeteria did not work. There were too many distractions and it was dubbed "the worst spot ever". Lesson learned.
My kids are grown and on their own now. As I remember back on these once-a-month outings I realize that what started out as a way to compensate for a concern helped to establish strong relationships and resulted in a collection of fun memories that never would have been made if it weren't for my job and the requirement to travel "a little too much".