On February 17, 2014, the country celebrates Presidents Day, which coincides with George Washington's birthday. Known as the "father of our country," Washington is said to have been a devoted stepfather to the two children of his wife, Martha. I cannot tell a lie: I really don't know if it was the Washington family routine to take a day off (from the day-to-day demands of the Revolution and of the Presidency) for his birthday to spend quality family time. But for many parents and kids, Presidents Day means a three-day weekend, so if you're able to take the day off with your family, I encourage you to do so.
Three-day weekends are unique parenting opportunities. Unlike the usual overbooked experience of a two-day weekend, filled with soccer games, playdates, and to-do lists of chores, a three-day weekend is bonus time for the family, especially if your kids are home from school and less programmed than usual. If you're lucky enough to have Monday off, think twice about scheduling golf or tennis with your adult buddies and shipping your kids off to friends' houses. If there are chores around the house, do them with your kids. If you can't resist the Presidents Day Sale at the furniture store or car dealership, take your kids along with you and go for ice cream afterwards. If your plan is to sleep in for an extra two hours while the kids are watching TV, change your plan – sleep in an extra hour (you've earned it!), but spend the second hour with the kids not watching TV.
There are 940 weekends between your little girl's birth and the day she leaves for college. Sounds like a lot, right? But if she's 5 years old, you've already used up 260 of those weekends. And only about 100 of them are three-day weekends so, by the time she turns 5, you've already used up 25 of those! If you're like most parents who think their kids are growing up too fast, you probably already wish you could have some of those weekends back. Even though you can't, now is the time to make sure you don't have any regrets about how you spend the remaining weekends of your kids' childhoods. And three-day weekends are the perfect place to start.
Get out your calendars and mark down these official federal holidays (which include a few three-day weekends) for the rest of 2014: Memorial Day (Monday, May 26); July 4 (a Friday this year); Labor Day (Monday, September 1); Columbus Day (Monday, October 13); Veteran's Day (Tuesday, November 11); Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 27); and Christmas (Tuesday, December 25). If your job doesn't let you take off for all these special days, you can still spend the time you have wisely.
This February 17, take a little time to talk with your kids about George Washington and other great presidents in U.S. history. Give your kids a shiny quarter or a crisp dollar bill and point out George's image. Or try throwing a rock or a penny all the way across a river (who can afford to throw away a sliver dollar today?).
On Presidents Day, honor the father of our country, and your kids, by doing something really fun that the whole family will remember until Memorial Day—the next three-day weekend!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Silhouette of family on a beach at dusk via Shutterstock