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December 07, 2010
One on One
Having three children, all within three and a half years of each other, is most often best described as controlled chaos. Most everything we do is done as one big family unit, with the requisite arguing and in-fighting prevalent with teens and pre-teens. And while family time is a wonderful thing and by no means trivial, sometimes the kids just want to spend time with a parent one on one, with no sibling interference.

Several years ago I started a tradition in this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My kids each pick a night when we have nothing else planned and we (one child and myself) go Christmas shopping for their mom. (who is also my wife, I should probably add) Before we hit the stores, we have dinner at the restaurant of my child's choosing. It is a fun time, and I learn things about my kids' lives that never seem to come out when the whole family is together.

Last night was my oldest son Kyle's night out. We had dinner at Pizza Hut (he's not a picky kid, and he loves their pizza), and shopped for his siblings and his mom. Afterward, we went to a Starbucks, split a piece of gingerbread cake, and just talked.

I told Kyle that as he's getting older, I have some anxiety that this tradition will become more of an obligation to him than a privilege. The last thing I ever want to be is the "uncool dad" forcing father/son time in the name of tradition. He quickly eased my fears when he said he loves the tradition, loves getting away from his siblings, and still thinks I'm cool. So I'll take that...until he changes his mind, as most 14-year-old boys have a tendency to do.

There are family traditions we had growing up that I still hold my parents to whenever we visit them for Christmas. One of them is having Pizza Hut pizza on Christmas Eve. (yes, it has to be Pizza Hut - you don't question that, just like you don't question why the sun rises each morning) Another is me handing out the presents as we open them around the tree. Maybe someday one of my kids will be bequeathed the mighty Santa hat, but not quite yet.

When we lived in Dallas, TX and several thousand miles from our closest relative, we started some of our own traditions. Instead of Pizza Hut on Christmas Eve, we buy all the ingredients and make our own. We also decorate, as a family, one or two gingerbread houses. These are the kinds of traditions I hope my kids remember fondly when they're grown and gone.

As for the tradition I started with my kids, my middle son was begging me this morning to use this evening as our time. So yeah, I guess it still means something to them. If only they knew what it means to me.

Make it a great week,


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