If I had to pick the most meaningful gift I’ve ever given my girls, the Valentine’s Day present I gave each of them last year surely would be in the running.
It cost me nothing (at least not initially) but kept on giving all year long.
The idea came to me where I do some of my best pondering—in the family minivan.
I was driving home alone from somewhere. I was thinking about how much Lilly and I talk in the car. It occurred to me that, in a few short years, we’ll have to find somewhere else to converse because she’ll be driving herself.
Not surprisingly, this line of thought plowed me straight into the reality that my girls will be grown before I can blink an eye. I normally don’t agonize about that too much—I’m actually looking forward to knowing my daughters as adults and watching them become the women God has designed them to be.
But this particular day, the gravity of helping my children prepare for adulthood collided with the awareness of how fast time is flying by, leaving me with an urgent desire to make the moments that we do have together count.
How can I invest in my girls’ lives right now, while they are still under my roof and guided by my influence? I wondered. How can I be intentional about spending time with them, in a way that meets them where they are as individuals and shows them how much I truly desire to know them?
It’s not that I haven’t been trying to do this since they were small, but that day in the car, I sensed the need to go deeper with it.
And that’s when I got the idea for what I call “Mom Tickets.”
Here’s the thing. Lilly, Molly and I spend a lot of time together, but much of what we do originates with me. When they’re not at school, they like to go grocery shopping with me. They run errands with me on the weekends, and at least one of them is usually up for little outings to local parks and garden centers and resale shops.
I’m grateful that our mother-daughter relationship allows for this kind of companionship, but as they get older, I also want to spend time with them strictly on their terms. That’s what Mom Tickets represent: no hidden agenda or underlying purpose—except spending one-on-one time with my girls, doing something that they want to do with me.
I gave Lilly and Molly each a set of 12 coupons, which I made by hand using a metallic pen and brightly colored index cards (no fancy art or Pinterest-worthy printables here). The accompanying instructions were simple: They could redeem one per month for a low or no-cost activity or outing of their choosing.
No strings attached.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this would go over with my then 14- and 11-year-old daughters. Would they even want to use their Mom Tickets? Would they embrace it at first but then forget all about it after a few months? I didn’t know, but I hoped they would like the idea.
And they did.
Molly returns her actual tickets to me each month. She doesn’t even say anything about it—she waits for me to notice the little fuchsia rectangles she’s left on the kitchen table or island. It took me a while to catch on, but now when I see one, I immediately turn it over to discover what she wants to do that month.
Lilly just asks, “Can we do a Mom Ticket this weekend?” And unless I have something I can’t work around (which I normally don’t), the answer is usually yes.
Not surprisingly, Lilly and Molly also choose different activities. Lilly prefers window shopping and talking. We go to Starbucks first, where we chat about everything from friends and boys to the challenges a petite girl faces in fitness class. (I had no idea how hard it is for someone with short legs to use certain pieces of weight-lifting equipment. The struggle is real, folks!)
Phones are mostly out of sight, except for last month, when Lilly helped me post my very first Instagram photo using a fun picture we had just taken at the video rental store. (That was about me, yes, but it fulfilled her long-time desire for me to post on Instagram, so it was really all for her!)
Lilly and I usually conclude her Mom Tickets someplace like Ross Dress for Less, Half-Price Books or Bass Pro Shops, where we try on dresses we’d probably never buy, pilfer through DVDs and look at taxidermy displays (because what else is there to do at Bass Pro?).
As for Molly, she has recently started requesting Starbucks to kick off her Mom Tickets too. But aside from a trip to IKEA where she admired pillows, pulled out almost every cabinet drawer and examined more kitchen gadgets than I could count, nearly all of hers involve doing something at home.
We’ve colored together, played Mario Cart, done eye shadow, built hover boards out of leftover Lego Friends pieces and watched Star Wars in our home theater. We don’t talk much; we mostly just work side-by-side. And that works for us.
As I look back over the last year, I’m glad for all the one-on-one time the girls and I have shared. Initially, though, I’m not sure if Mom Tickets are supposed to become an annual Valentine’s Day tradition.
Maybe Lilly and Molly are tired of them, I think.
There’s only one way to find out, of course.
“Should I do Mom Tickets again this year?” I ask Lilly.
“I’m not gonna pass up free Starbucks,” she says with a laugh.
P.S. I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Three Word Wednesday, Chasing Community, #HeartEncouragementThursday, FreshMarketFriday, Faith-filled Friday and Grace & Truth.