Before our lovely and amazing toddler burst onto the scene, my husband and I used to furrow our brows in confusion when couples with kids talked about “date night” with the same longing look usually reserved for a week-long vacation in Aruba. We would never be like that we said. We would never let our relationship take the back burner. We would never let ourselves feel the need to get away from our kids we scoffed. How I laugh now when I think about what we thought life with kids was like. We envisioned the fun family outings, ice cream cones in our hands, eyes shiny with laughter. And then if we wanted a night away from our little angel, we would just get a babysitter. Just get a babysitter. That’s what I thought. I know, I know; I’m laughing too.
Two and a half years into this life as a family of three, I think we have it down pretty well. We go out for ice cream, yes, and there is lots of laughter, yes, but sometimes she begs for a strawberry cone, takes one look at it and immediately demands chocolate in a cup—very, very loudly. Sometimes our daughter wants to take her shoes off and tries to dart out to the parking lot, us chasing behind balancing cups and cones. Sometimes my husband and I meet eyes and exchange glances of fellow prisoners of war. That is when we know it is time for date night.
It is time to coordinate the troops and figure out a plan of attack: Operation Go Out to Eat and Maybe See a Movie if We Aren’t Too Tired (ugh I know. My twenty-five-year-old self is sneering disapprovingly at me right now). We have to synchronize schedules, arrange for someone to watch Little Bit, and figure out exactly what consequences we are ready to endure. We are fortunate in that my parents are close enough (and masochistic enough) to watch our two year old often. However, they live just too far away for us to go out to eat dinner after the Early Bird Specials end and still pick her up, so she has to spend the night with them, which means totally bucking her schedule. How badly do I want to try that new restaurant all my childless friends are posting painfully hipster plates from on Instagram? How badly do I want to eat my entire deconstructed meal off of wooden butcher boards? Pretty badly it turns out. So we pack her up—she needs about fifty-seven dolls to go to Grandma’s, apparently—and get her over there. We resist the urge to ding-dong-ditch and leave her on the front stoop with a thank you note pinned to her shirt (it would be Pinterest worthy and handwritten; geez, guys, have some faith in me).
We did it. We are free.
Sometimes we high-five. With the only visual clues to our true responsibilities being an empty carseat and a trillion crushed Goldfish crackers in the backseat, we feel like teenagers again (or some more boring equivalent). We talk without being interrupted. We finally get to tell that inappropriate story from a week ago without worrying about the parrot that has been hanging around recently. We can go back to just being the two of us. Really, it doesn’t even matter where we are going and what we are doing, it is that reminder of who we married and why we made that crazy decision that we are chasing. We get to look at each other with the fog of parenthood lifted. Oh yeah, I remember you. Hey. You’re pretty cute.
And that is why we do it. That is why date night is a priority for us—no matter what lengths we have to go through. We could think about all the steps involved and give up. We could just relegate ourselves to the everyday trudge, but our marriage is worth more than that. I married my husband for reasons completely unrelated to his parenting abilities, and I should see those reasons again sometimes. They are still there under the boo-boo kissing, princess playing, tiny-hand holding man he has become. Don’t get me wrong, I love him for all those reasons too, but I don’t love him for just those reasons alone. I need to see that again sometimes and, most importantly, I want my daughter to see that. The best I could ever wish for her is to marry someone who she still recognizes after two and a half years of diaper changes, snotty noses, and daily trials of parenting. And that is what date night is really for.