Why having cultural experiences without your kids helps you be better multicultural parents.
For our anniversary this year, my husband and I ditched the kids and went to a rotating sushi restaurant, just the two of us. It was modeled after the Japanese conveyer belt sushi restaurants with special machinery purchased from Japan to make the experience even more authentic.
Would our kids have loved this cultural dining experience? Absolutely.
Do we regret leaving them behind? Absolutely not.
Here's the truth: having cultural experiences without your kids helps you be better multicultural parents. At first, this might seem a little contradictory for parenting advice. Why would we recommend excluding your kids from having memorable cultural exposure?
The answer is that you and your significant other need time to recharge and enjoy your cultures too. Family outings can be draining and sometimes disappointing as you envision everyone having fun and immersing themselves in the experience you put so much time, thought, and money into creating. The reality with kids is that tantrums happen, hangry is a real mood, and parents place their children's experience above their own and often find themselves limited in what they can eat, explore, and enjoy while their kids are in tow.
65% of voters looked forward to dates because they could spend one-on-one time with their significant other
At the Japanese restaurant, for the first time in a looooong time, my husband and I ordered what we wanted and actually got to eat our food before it got cold. We got to enjoy the fun Japanese city environment without worrying about our kids touching the walls and leaving dirty handprints. And we even got to stay and order dessert (gasp!).
Our experience was so enjoyable, that we recommend every couple take the time to explore their cultures with their significant other and sans kids! There are other benefits too, including:
1. Family-Friendly Checks
Have you ever taken your kids to a restaurant, show, or exhibit only to realize it was not a family-friendly place? We've been there. For my husband's birthday one year, we went to a Japanese grill for dinner. It was a three-minute drive from our house, which is in a very family-oriented neighborhood, so we didn't think it would be an issue bringing our two kids. Well, they only had glass drinkware and ceramic plates. Our kids had to eat out of to-go boxes because it was the only unbreakable option for their little hands.
If it's not openly advertised as family-friendly and you want to bring your kids, it's a good idea to go on a date, just you and your significant other, to see if it would be appropriate for your children. A few things to check for are:
Kid's Menu: They should still include cultural food options, but your child probably won't eat an adult portion and you won't have to pay for an extra adult meal.
Ambiance: If you go at a reasonable hour and find that only adults are in attendance, that's a good reason to call it a great date and leave it at that. The content (whether it's a film, performance, class, or restaurant) is probably not age-appropriate for young kids.
Expected Time Commitment: It's always good to know how much time you plan on spending somewhere. If it's a long drive or has lots to explore like a museum or fair, you'll want to plan for things like meals and naptimes.
2. Experience for Yourself
Let's be honest, when you take your kids anywhere, your focus is on them. You're busy, picking up the toys they drop, making sure they're eating their meal, counting heads to make sure no one wanders off, or doing potty runs and diaper changes. Your experience is so centered around your kids that you're not able to fully enjoy the experience for yourself.
When you're able to go just as adults, you can take your time to browse booths at fairs, try new foods, and give your undivided attention to speakers/performers. You deserve to make new memories and new connections with your cultures. Plus, you'll learn new things to share with your kids when you get home and your cultural excitement will rub off on them.
3. Connect with Your Significant Other
This is probably the most important reason on our list. If you're going to be raising your multicultural children together, it's important that you and your significant other have an appreciation for each other's cultures. Teaching your children about their cultures can sometimes feel overwhelming, but as you experience your cultures together you're able to reaffirm the reasons why you're doing it.
Our recent poll showed that 65% of voters looked forward to dates because they could spend one-on-one time with their significant other. As you have positive experiences with each other's cultures, you'll be more inclined to support each other's decisions for things like language schools, spending a full Saturday at a cultural festival, or paying a little more for groceries from an ethnic market.
Parenting is a team effort, so it's important that you take the time to have fun and support each other!
4. Prepare Your Kids
If you get the chance to prepare your kids for the outing, you can help set and manage expectations. Not only will you have had a chance to scope out where the restrooms are and what food options are available (because kids always need a snack break), but you'll also be able to plan and prioritize what you would like to see/do that day.
Knowing what to expect will allow you to explain to your kids what they will see and experience. They'll be excited before you even leave for your cultural outing.
5. Creates a Memorable Celebration
My husband and I normally go on dates for special occasions like our anniversaries or birthdays. We loved seeing that 48% of voters go out monthly or more frequently (seriously impressed).
Cultural experiences are often limited in their offerings. Festivals and conventions only come around every once in a while. Authentic ethnic restaurants might be a little more costly with seasonal dishes. International films have select location screenings. Incorporating culture into special days makes whatever you're celebrating that much more memorable. I couldn't tell you what book was read at last week's library storytime, but I can tell you that on our fifth wedding anniversary, we went to a dinner + magic show that I'll never forget.
Of course, we fully support including your kids in cultural outings. We also fully support parents enjoying and exploring their cultures for themselves. They say you can't fill a cup from an empty vase (or something like that), so take the time to fill your cultural vases so you have a renewed sense of excitement and appreciation to share with your kids.
Date nights shouldn't stop once you have kids. They may take a little more effort and planning, but you and your significant other deserve to explore and learn new things together. Exactly half of our voters said that finding child care was the reason they don't go out on dates more often. Even if you only go out for special occasions like anniversaries, it still makes a difference! Not only will you feel closer to each other, but you'll also feel closer to each others' cultures.
Need some ideas?
Here are some of our followers' favorite dates. You can easily take something you already love doing together and give it a cultural twist:
~"I love paddle boarding or boating dates."
~ "Days shy from having our second daughter, we went to the
cinema and watched the Chinese movie ‘Hi, mom’."
~ "Arcade where we can just act like kids.”
~ "Last year we went to this fancy fine dining restaurant. Good to enjoy
great food & ambiance.”
Cultural Art Outings:
~ "Surprise date to the spiral jetty.”