I wish I could see you more often.
November 10, 2011 9:27 PM   Subscribe

My life is very, very busy. My wife and daughter and I have decided that for the time being, we'll make some sacrifices, mainly in terms of time, to realize some important things for our family. What sorts of things can I do for them, in the "in-between" moments when scurrying around, that will let them know how much I appreciate and am thinking about them?

I'd really like practical ideas, like leaving notes, phone call, etc., that might be meaningful. I would really like to take this to a higher level, if possible. I'm not that great at coming up with ideas. Perhaps to keep this from getting too chatty, if you know of good resources (like books or websites) that can provide fodder for the imagination on doing "little things" over time to let people know that you love and are thinking of them, feel free to share.

So in a nutshell, looking for ideas that are clever, things that are meaningful, things that can be sustained over a long period of time without becoming empty gestures.
posted by SpacemanStix to Human Relations (18 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Do you mean you'll be working around the clock on a (lucrative/rewarding/else) project? If computer based could you arrange some periodic chatty IM time with either?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:31 PM on November 10, 2011

My father used to travel a lot for work. When I was a little kid I didn't really know where he was going or why, just that he was gone a lot. He'd send me postcards but they wouldn't have the usual "here is a pyramid, miss you!" notes, they'd all have some little story about his day ["here in japan, the typewriters work like this..."] and they were always written directly to me. If you've got super busy stuff going on but you're in town I'd see if you could set up something regular, whether it's a dinner night where dad cooks, or a date night with your wife, or something that happens at some regular interval both so that everyone can look forward to it but also that you being able to make a commitment to that thing [if you can, you may not be able to in which case, ignore me] is a way of indicating "making time for this is something I care about"

Basically find some of the down time that you have to do little things, could even be phone-based: play online turn-based games, send postcards, text things, maintain an exchange of lolcat pictures. Get into goofy habits with your daughter (I don't know how old she is) so that every day you ask her what color socks she's wearing or what she ate for lunch or whether she remembered to pet the cat today. Or draw a picture of yourself every day and put it in an envelope to her. Or make a calendar that tells how many days til .... til you have some free time, til you are done with this phase of your work life, til something happens, maybe a kid-centered calendar if she's young, so stuff about her, and you can look at the calendar together in the time you do have and talk about what's coming up.

And even if you're gone a lot, have some jobs around the house that are still just yours so that even if you can not contribute equally timewise, it's still clear that everyone has to do some small part of keeping the household going. And check in with your wife frequently to make sure it's all working for her [and if she thinks it's working for your daughter] as you go along.
posted by jessamyn at 9:40 PM on November 10, 2011 [17 favorites]

Many years ago, I got ahold of my dad's palm pilot, and set up a yearly event on a random day that just said "Dear Dad, I love you! Love, Margaret." He's changed devices several times since then, but the calendar event has stayed as he's synced the old device with the new. It comes up infrequently enough that it's a surprise every time, and it is by far the most happiness per unit of effort I have ever generated for someone else. Every year he's delighted, and every year he emails or calls to let me know the message has come up again. (And since I forget about it, too, of course, it has ended up being just as wonderful for me as it is for him.)

Can you get ahold of your wife's and daughter's mobile devices and plant a little love time bomb like that?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:54 PM on November 10, 2011 [21 favorites]

How about a bulletin and white board so you can all leave grafitti, love notes, drawings or newspaper articles to comment on.
that way you can have a kind of "conversation" that spans days.
and if you do go out of town, your daughter & wife could take a photo of it to send to you on the phone.
posted by calgirl at 10:32 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take a walk with your kid every night before bed that you are home. And just let her talk to you.
posted by fshgrl at 10:45 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try to remember that on their deathbed no one ever said "I wish I had spent more time at the office."
posted by snowjoe at 11:04 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I read of fathers who have long-standing hobbies with their daughters, sometimes it's tool collecting, bird-watching, rock-hounding or urban archeology (think strange things to be found on the street or a piece of gravel from the high line in NYC or other special place or pictures of graffiti or a feather that fell to earth) bagged and tagged and cataloged by one or the other of you. A joint collection. If your sense of humor and playfulness are similar, make up stories for one another about the objects--anything that's your special game and shared project. This is personal and open-ended communication and can keep you connected through some difficult times that might come up in the future. It shows you were thinking about her and the story is just for her.

I think it is a wonderful thing to greet your partner with an embrace, just to hold each other and feel connected for a moment or two when you are all home safely. Take the time to respect and value those moments. Do you remember the scene from The Godfather II when the DeNiro character brought his wife one pear? That was a very loving gift.

posted by Anitanola at 1:33 AM on November 11, 2011

If you've a smart phone, you could record a little narrative of your day and email it to them. The great thing about this is that you record at your leisure, which doesn't have to coincide with their leisure: you might record something at 2am at the end of your long busy day, and they might listen to it while relaxing over dinner. And it always feels much more intimate than an email. Something like SoundCloud for the iPhone would work.
posted by idlethink at 5:36 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hide notes and trinkets where they are likely to find them when you're not around - cereal boxes, game cases, the toes of their shoes...
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:09 AM on November 11, 2011

Those are great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing them, and your personal stories.

Some of this definitely resonates as true. I have a longstanding "date" with my daughter every Saturday morning for breakfast, and we also do a hobby type thing together most evenings. My wife and I also do a date night once a week, whenever possible.

It's one of those deals, though, where even though it's the right stage of life for us for now and we're getting by, I wish I could do more. And if I can, I'd like take advantage of it. Your ideas will help.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:20 AM on November 11, 2011

For a year or more we were writing short notes and slipping them into our kids' lunchboxes, and later into small metal mailboxes that we lined up on the hearth. They went crazy when we missed a day, evn though the notes could be as short as "I love you!" or a series of math problems (which they would immediately solve and leave on the counter!).

Like the whiteboard idea, above, could you print out (cheaply, al a inkjet) a photo every day or two and hang it up where they'll see it, like in the kitchen? Bonus points if it shows where you were *and* features your face.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:11 AM on November 11, 2011

Clean out the sink every night so that all the dirty dishes are clean and put away, or at least in the dishwasher.

Run a bathtowel in the dryer while your wife or daughter is in the shower so its warm when they get out.

Send a quick note when you are out that demonstrates you've been impacted by your wife or daughter. These are "in betweens" and go beyond "I love yous". Things like "you know, I was thinking about something you said the other day and I really learned from it. It made me realize ####." It may makes them feel like you carry them with you.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:31 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

My mom was extremely busy when I was a kid--she had a full time job and also was working towards her college degree, so she attended evening and weekend classes. During the school year, I didn't see her as much as either of us would like. Some nights she didn't get home until after I had gone to bed. We ended up writing notes to each other in a little notebook--I'd dictate to Dad what to write down about my day (my dad would typically alter what I wrote, to mess with me: "Hi Mom today we had hamburgers garbage for lunch at school" and then recorded my subsequent reaction to what he wrote, word for word "HAHAHA NOOOO DAAAD THAT'S NOT WHAT I SAID")

Anyways, then when Mom got home after I had gone to bed, she'd read my note about my day and then write a note back to me on the next page of the notebook, for me to read the next evening. Then I'd respond to that, and so on.

Bonus: The notebook makes an excellent keepsake later on.
posted by castlebravo at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

You're on the right track - leave notes in places that they'll find them when you're gone.

I was going to suggest "daddy dates" with your daughter - but per your update, looks like you got that covered. Could you also add in a special occasion one that would be after a time where you're really busy? Maybe get her a new outfit and buy her flowers. That way she can look forward to it during the time when you can't see her as often.

When you're home, try to BE home fully. Don't take calls, answer email, etc. and be mentally present. If you can't do it all the time, choose a day and make that the day you're present.

It might also be worth figuring out your wife and daughter's love languages so that you do the things that are most meaningful to them. For me, it'd be cleaning and helping out with the cooking so I could sit down for a while. Y(wife's)MMV.

You're on the right track asking this question. I hope you've expressed this to your wife too, so that she knows that you're thinking about it.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:13 PM on November 11, 2011

This is pretty specific but when I was a little girl my dad traveled for business constantly, like, the "gone Monday morning before I woke up, back Friday night after I'd gone to bed" kind of travel. He and my mom did this thing where she sewed a little pouch for him, and he brought home all the hotel pillow chocolates and airline snacks in it (... or at least one: now that I think about it, it wasn't like I got a huge stash each week). I don't know if you're traveling, and I guess in today's world we're not really keen on using candy as a 'reward' like that (if airlines & hotels are even giving them out anymore), but I definitely remember it. It was that he was thinking about me when he was gone, you know?

As an adult, I'd say for your wife: Yeah, even just quietly helping out with the chores--and not expecting praise for it, because after all you're a team--can be really nice. And telling her you appreciate all she does when you're not there, since it can be easy to start taking that all for granted. And random text messages--I love getting an unsolicited text where my bf tells me he loves me or misses me. It doesn't have to be while he's away from home or anything--it's just nice to know that he's thinking about me.

You sound like a great husband and dad. Thinking about this sort of thing is half the battle.
posted by alleycat01 at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2011

My Dad used to go away for a week or so at a time and we had a blackboard set up and he'd leave a puzzle for me to try and work out while he was away. When I was younger it might be a word with letters missing and a picture and I had to spell the word (he was a good amateur artist) as I got older he'd find all sorts of puzzles and mind games and riddles to leave up for me to work out. It lead into our shared love of puzzles and good detective novels as we got older, we'd always be trying to "catch" the other out.

He would also bring me things from his travels, a bit like allyecat01's dad, not so much souvenirs of where he'd been but of what he'd done. Hotel candy, the weird floss holder things you only get in airline toiletry bags that sort of thing.
posted by wwax at 2:04 PM on November 11, 2011

Again, good stuff. Thanks everyone.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2011

My husband Is away on business this week, and before he left he hid some little prizes around with clues leading up to them. Last night he texted me a picture of a vase we have and told me to look inside. Sure enough, there were clues leading around the house until I finally found a gift card for coffee tucked in one of his shoes. Made me feel instantly connected to him and loved. The kids feel the same about their 2 quests, one of which rewarded them with normally verboten sugar cereal. My husband is sweet.
posted by Biblio at 7:01 PM on November 12, 2011

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