My daughter and I just returned from a jam-packed, mother- daughter weekend retreat at a camp up north. Our time from Friday evening through Sunday morning was filled with ziplines, riding horses, singing, a leather shop (brand new homemade fringe earrings for me, thank you very much), crafts crafts crafts, and FOOD.
This particular camp comes with a special emotional attachment for me. This was the same camp where I attended parent child retreats when I was growing up. It was the camp where I attended summer camp, where my youth group went on retreats, and even where I spent a couple of my college summers working as a counselor and lifeguard, during which, bonus, I met my husband.
Moments alone with each individual child don’t happen frequently. Like all relationships, the parent child relationship takes time and intentionality. More than I’d like to admit, other things, both important and inconsequential, take my time and attention.
And so, even though this trip came with packing, extra planning in regards to those left at home, and a three hour and forty-five minute drive…which actually took us six and a half, it was oh, so worth it.
1. It’s important to have one-on-one time.
My daughter is the oldest child with two younger brothers. Although I know she loves her brothers more than she’d like to admit, she frequently laments being the only girl. (This made for quite a memorable gender reveal with our youngest, as our daughter indignantly stomped off the patio and into the house when the blue confetti fluttered out of the popped balloon.)
While one-on-one time does not necessarily mean a whole weekend away, our time at this retreat allowed us ample extended opportunities to be silly. We had time to give each other our full attention without the constant “Why’s” from a certain special three-year-old and a certain special six-year-old wanting to fill me in on Vikings football stats.
2. New experiences bond us.
This year, at age eight, my daughter was old enough to go on a trail ride at camp. She was so nervous, but she bravely blinked back the tears to ride solo on her horse, Vern, while I trailed behind on Marshall. As the trail ride continued, she started to relax and talk to the horse. She became more and more confident and by the time we ended the trail ride, a huge grin stretched across her face.
Fighting through these fears and doing something new and thrilling with someone you love boosts the bonding hormone, oxytocin. This is the same hormone which establishes the mother-infant bond, and it continues to play an important role as children grow up.
3. Memories are created.
My daughter and I attended this same retreat for the first time last year. At that time, the whole weekend was a new experience. But this time we had the memories from the previous year tucked inside our minds, and we looked forward to the weekend with a special eagerness.
Will we do the rock climbing wall again? The 24-hour snow cone machine was the best last year! Do you remember when we made the pom poms?
Building traditions and creating memories lead to a feeling of nostalgia. These warm fuzzies remind us of how special the other person is every time we recall the memories, often carrying us through the not-so-pretty parts of our relationship.
4. Responsibilities are put on hold.
A weekend like this allows responsibilities to take a backseat. I’m not just talking about my responsibilities as an adult. Even as a second grader, my daughter has her own list of obligations, chores at home and homework from school, that can weigh on her. These duties are good things! But being an oldest child with perfectionistic tendencies (passed down to her by yours truly), the daily grind can take a toll.
Sometimes you just need to let your hair down! Or in this case, on Saturday night for the Christmas-themed pajama party, my daughter let me put her hair in pigtail braids, which NEVER HAPPENS, YOU GUYS!
That evening as I glanced over at her while she made up silly actions with her friends during singing, I had flashbacks to my own childhood, in the very same gathering place, doing the very same thing with my friends. And I was so very grateful for the memories that I had created with my own parents.
So do it. Date your kids. Take the hour or take the weekend. Create the memories that will last a lifetime.