That response would quickly be followed with, “Whose turn is it next?” While Monday night is set aside for family home evening at our house, Thursday night is set aside for dad to have some special one-on-one time with one of his daughters.
Daddy-daughter dates can positively influence a young girl’s emotional and spiritual life. President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that daddy-daughter dates are one of the ways “fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children.” A young girl’s sense of self worth, sense of acceptance, and understanding of how males and females interact, are all significantly influenced by the relationship she has with her father. This relationship carries on into adulthood and influences other relationships she will form later in life.
Our approach to daddy-daughter dates is simple. Each Thursday night, one of my daughters and I have a simple activity –a date. We rotate whose turn it is from oldest to youngest. Here’s what we do:
1. Early in the week I remind one of my daughters that this coming Thursday is their turn for a daddy-daughter date. I ask if she has some ideas on what she would like to do.
2. When Thursday evening comes we kneel down in prayer and ask Heavenly Father to bless and strengthen our relationship and to help us have fun!
3. We enjoy our activity.
4. We have a treat, usually ice cream with toppings.
Over the past seven years we’ve become quite creative in what we do, but regardless of the activity the goal is always to be together and experience the magic of this one-on-one time. At first, coming up with something to do every week was difficult. However, deciding what to do has become easier since we now keep a list of ideas to help us when we get stuck. The creation of the list, in fact was one of our daddy-daughter dates. That date included McKinsey and I brainstorming a list of things we had already done or could do. We then typed the list up on the computer using a font style that she chose. Like all our dates, this one ended with, you guessed it, ice cream.
We have found that daddy-daughter dates don’t need to be long. Recently my three year old daughter, Rebecca, and I made a simple craft that took about twenty minutes, the ice cream took as long as the craft! Usually the activity is the choice of my special date. It should be something she enjoys and something she wants her Dad to be a part of.
Daddy-daughter dates do not need to be over-planned; sometimes spontaneous ones are the best. I recall one date where Kristyn and I were undecided on our activity. We ended up on a last minute bike ride. She was still too small to go very far on her own bike, so she rode in a bike trailer while I provided the pedal power. Our destination was a nearby ice cream shop (no surprise there.) It was a warm day and as we sat outside enjoying our ice cream it began melting all over our hands – we were a mess. We cleaned ourselves up as best we could and then we just watch people, cars, and clouds as we talked and told silly jokes. As we sat there it felt like time stood still. We just enjoyed being together.
The “Magic” of the Date
While the activity may seem to be the focus, something else happens that I call the “magic” of daddy-daughter dates. The magic is the wonderful conversation that takes place. My daughters are very open and talkative on these dates. They tell me things I may never otherwise learn. I have learned about their dreams and aspirations, school, friends, challenges they face, their favorite primary songs, the mean boy down the street, and much more.
This time becomes sacred and valuable communicating, teaching, and counseling time. In this one-on-one sitting, doing something they want to do, I find my daughters are open, teachable, and very fun. Often they will ask questions that stimulate a gospel-oriented discussion. We have talked about the Word of Wisdom, what it mean to feel the Holy Ghost, and why we don’t show our belly buttons. To me this is the magic that takes place.
Daddy-daughter dates are really about parenting – learning to communicate, teaching and learning from each other, and modeling healthy relationships. President Ezra Taft Benson wrote, “Fatherhood is not a matter of desire, diligence, and determination to see one’s family exalted in the celestial kingdom. If that prize is lost, nothing else really matters. Daddy-daughter dates are one form of “fatherhood in action.”
In a world that has very few positive role models for girls, where the media promotes unhealthy relationships (including being disrespectful and dishonest to parents,) and where gender roles can be very confusing, young girls need an honest and healthy relationship with their father. Daddy-daughter dates provide an opportunity to “train up a child” in a way that helps combat the worldly misperceptions about who these wonderful daughters are (Proverbs 22:6.) These dates help build my daughters’ feelings of self confidence and self-esteem, and increase their feelings of divine worth.
Who Else Benefits?
Not only are daddy-daughter dates good for daughters, they are good for dads too! Though these dates I have gained a greater appreciation for the unique talents and skills of each of my daughters. This has helped me be a better parent. I have learned how to better communicate with each of them, resulting in a more loving relationship throughout the week.
President Howard W. Hunter counseled, “Effective family leadership, brethren, requires both quantity and quality time…Earn the respect and confidence of your children through your loving relationship with them….Tell your children you love them.”
You may ask, “What about Mom, doesn’t she feel left out?” Actually, Mom is thrilled to have Dad invest time in this way and she is fully supportive. In fact, on more than one occasion I have come home with my date to find Mom and the other two girls having fun of their own.
Favorite Daddy-Daughter Dates
Here are some of our favorite dates:
The Best Pet Store
Supplies needed: Clipboard, pencil, list of pet stores
Time: 2 hours
One week Kristyn was learning about rain forest animals in school. We decided to use learning about animals as part of our date. We made a simple matrix, got a clipboard and pencil, and made a list of pet stores in our area.
”My favorite daddy-daughter date was when my dad and I went to a bunch of pet stores to find the best one,” remember Kristyn, age 10, “It was kind of a science experiment because we had a chart where we counted how many different kinds of animals each store had. We drove all over town and went to about four different pet stores. Then we stopped and had ice cream.”
Crafting Supplies needed: Construction paper, markers, glue, and other craft supplies
Time: Two hours
Cost: $0 (depending on supplies needed)
McKinsey is a crafter – next to reading it is her favorite activity. Give her paper, markers, and scissors and the creativity, as well as the time, will flow.
”I liked the daddy-daughter date where we made all kinds of Christmas decorations for our house and then we put them up,” McKinsey, age 7, says, “I like to craft with my dad. Oh, I also liked going to the pottery store and making a dolphin, because I want to be a dolphin trainer when I grow up. I always want my ice cream with magic shell and a cherry on top.”
The Biggest Leaf Pile Ever
Supplies needed: Rakes and lot of leaves
Time: One to two hours
Rebecca loves being outside. Fall in Illinois brings lots of leaves, so on one particular date we made a large pile of leaves and then played and buried ourselves in them. Then we sat and enjoyed the smell of fall, a clear blue sky, and talking about how big she needed to be before she could go to preschool.
”I liked getting a big leaf pile and jumping, jumping, jumping. Then I hided in the leaves so my dad couldn’t find me, but he does anyway and then he tickles me,” giggles Rebecca, age3. “My best part is ice cream with sprinkles on top. Dad makes it the goodest ever, but sometimes we have hot chocolate.”
Dads, Go Get a Date!
Although building loving relationships takes time, we have been counseled, “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68: 25, 28). Daddy-daughter dates are a great opportunity to do just that in a way that is fun for all. Give these special dates a try and watch how your family relationships grow. Before too long your kids will be able to excitedly answer the question: “What begins with a prayer and ends with ice cream?”