Twice a year, it’s Ella-papa-dag (Ella-dad-day, Father-daughter day), a very special day. My daughter Ella and I get up in the morning, leave my wife and my son Gust at home and spend the day (and night) away from home. There is also an Ella-mama-dag and there will soon be a Gust-papa-dag and a Gust-mama-dag. But for now, we had four very successful editions of the Ella-papa-dag.

The basic premise is simple: Ella-papa-dag is the only day in the year where my daughter Ella gets to choose what we’ll be doing. Period.

For the control-freaking dads reading this – it sounds scarier than it actually is. Usually, the uncontested highlights of our Father-daughter day are eating spaghetti, jumping on the hotel beds, eating grapes on the hotel bed (we don’t want our kids to be eating on the bed at home) and using the escalators in the train stations for half an hour.

And the best Ella-papa-dag (according to Ella) was 2 years ago when we spent the night in the Spiderman hotel (the Crown Plaza in Antwerp that had a large promotional Spiderman image on the side of the building) and I had to laugh so hard about a joke Ella made that I spit out my water.

The last Ella-papa-dag Ella wanted to visit my workplace, so I took her to visit the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offices in Amsterdam. Super simple, but she still thanks me for visiting the offices out of the blue once in a while.

Father-daughter day (Ella-papa-dag) is not about …

  • … doing many things crammed in one day (which I tend to do normally), as this will quickly wear them down and will massively diminish it being a memorable experience.
  • … budget. Last time we flew to Amsterdam from Brussels (I wanted her to experience flying for the first time), which was not at all memorable to her, while jumping on a hotel bed or just eating fruits in the park will be.

Father-daughter day (Ella-papa-dag) is about …

  • … doing things you normally would not do. If your son/daughter can only do things they can also do when they’re at home, it won’t be much of a memorable getaway.
  • … a great way for the kids to develop responsibility. By giving them the choice and responsibility and control to make their own decisions and see the consequences

So, what’s next for father-daughter day? I don’t know … I will have to ask Ella.

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