Facing the reality of only spending every other weekend with my kids post-divorce was mind-spinning. Prior to our split, I always joked that our family traveled in a pack. Schlepping everyone to every soccer game, basketball clinic, and grocery store trip was our norm. (We turned a lot of heads in BJ’s — one kind, confused, and, let’s face it, outspoken shopper even told me once, “I’m sure you can trust your husband to shop without you and the kids. Just give him a detailed list.”)
Once I wrapped my brain around “only half the weekends,” I began to hyper-focus. “What are we going to DO? How much fun can we cram in? What if Dad does [insert seasonal activity] with them before I do?”
Spoiler alert: That did not make weekends more fun. However, I have figured out a few things that actually do. No matter what your family looks like, I’m betting you’ve had moments where you wished you could better maximize your time together on the weekends. Give these tips a try!
1. Make a seasonal bucket list.
No, it does not have to be a fancy, Pinterest-y list that is hand-illustrated and matches your decor. And, no, you do not need to do all the things. We jot our lists on plain printer paper while at the dinner table, when everyone can give their input. I follow brainstorming rules — the faster the better, all ideas are welcome, and everyone should play along. (Paragliding makes the list every season — kind of as a running joke, but who knows! Maybe some day.)
The list helps us get unstuck when we don’t know what to do. It contains bigger adventures, like skiing, and smaller ones, like making s’mores. At the end of the season, it can serve as way to look back and realize that we do do fun things — even if we’re feeling bored that particular day.
(If you are into beautifully designed lists, though, you can sign up to have these hand-illustrated printables from Kelle Hampton emailed directly to you. They never disappoint!)
2. Pick one or two anchor events per weekend.
Overscheduling leads to frayed nerves and disappointment when things don’t go to plan. Pick one or two activities or events per weekend. When my kids ask what we’re doing, I can easily say: “On Saturday we’re going out to dinner, and on Sunday we’re checking out a new playground.” That’s it. That the weekend. If we fit in a little extra surprise and delight, great! If not, everyone’s expectations have been met.
3. Know and consider your kids’ temperaments.
I’m a dyed-in-the-cloth extrovert — who loves surprises. Two of my kids want to know every detail of the day and lean more introverted, while the third is up for everything. Prepare your kids for the day in whatever way makes them most comfortable. We try to avoid anything unexpected when we can — and then I model how to handle the hiccups that are bound to happen. And bonus tip: I’m not above a little reverse psychology. I’ve been known to say, “I don’t want to tell you the entire plan because you’ll complain!” only to hear in response, “We promise, MOM! We won’t complain.” Wink, wink.
4. Give them control when you can.
I have a terrible sense of direction; my teen has a great one — AND a smart phone. On a big adventure to New York City, he was thrilled to be our guide. And on excursions to amusement parks, he’s the first to download the app. My picky eater helps choose restaurants based on online menus. And my animal lover helps make sure the pets are fed and cared for before we leave the house — and keeps us on time for returning home so that the dog doesn’t miss a meal. The buy-in effect is real — and everything feels more successful when each person plays a part!
5. Embrace the lazy weekends.
Your kids just want to be with you anyway. Admittedly, I find it hard to “do nothing.” (See above — I’m an extrovert!) But just puttering around the house, shuffling kids to see their friends, and watching a movie from my childhood tend to be their favorite things.