Before my husband and I married 10 years ago, we did lots of research on to what a good marriage looks like. We did premarital counseling, we read books, and we talked frankly and honestly with each other about what we expected and the things we were going to do to make out marriage work when both of our parents marriages didn't. We spent a full year and a half engaged where with both worked out some individual issues we had (ok mostly me), dealt with spiritual struggles, and I finished college. It wasn't easy, but it did give us a head start into a strong marriage that many of our peers just didn't get. We weren't only goo-goo in love, but our heads were in the process as well and we knew full well that there was a whole life after the wedding and it wasn't always going to be a stroll in paradise. Happily ever after takes planning, coordination, and effort!
Even with all out looking ahead and laying out of good strategies, even practicing those strategies when we didn't feel up to it, once we had kids... well it didn't all go out the window, but many of the things that we both crave and know are good for us, seem to be the most difficult things to have, especially continuing to date. Even on the rare occasion that things come together to allow us to go out (which seems to get farther and farther apart and definitely not the twice a month we used to have before kids) things never seem to quite work. On Monday, for our anniversary, was no exception.
So the original deal was that twice a month (originally the 6th and 27th - or close to them) were the target dates each month. Both dates are a significant date in our relationship. They are days we both remember and as much as days on the calender fall into the void without being noticed, even before children (bc), the theory seemed a good one. And it was, until things came together in an unfortunate series of events.
When our first daughter was born, two weeks later my husband lost his job. I mean it wasn't a great job, it was with a really small family business and the owner was a bit of a flake (laid off all non-family staff), but it was a blessing (one of the most amazing times in our marriage), but also the beginning of the end of date nights. You see, we don't live near any family, and it was shortly after this that the last of our close college friends moved away (well they all sort of trickled away), or fell into a deep depression. Anyway, the point being we lost all of our ready-made babysitters. My only sister had moved away just the year before as well. We didn't have money for sitters, and on the odd chance that friends came to visit and offered to stay and hang out with our child (or still do with our kids), we feel like we are the ones missing the party happening in our house without us. After all, we so seldom get to socialize, we'd much rather hangout with our friends hanging with our kids than strangers somewhere in town. We also lost the funds to really do anything on a date, on the odd chance we went out we ended up just bringing our daughter with us, which worked really well when there was only one, but now there are three kids and well, it just doesn't seem to work so well.
There were some other factors as well, mostly having to do with slews of less than spectacular movies, closings of favorite restaurants, and generally feeling of needing to spend more time as family.
Then there were the changes in jobs. We sorta had funds, still didn't have a quality sitter, but the work schedules were so crazy that date night didn't even glimmer at a return, the fact that we managed to have more children is in retrospect a reflection on the plans of God, and not so much our own inclination. First my husband had a horribly unreliable work schedule, in that we never really knew for sure when he was going to come home, and then I had a job that required me to work evenings several nights a week, compounding the guilt I already felt for not having regular family nights.
Yet, the reasons for date nights are so extremely vital! Date nights are a chance to reconnect. A chance to focus on the relationship, the connections, the interests that sparked the family to begin with and will sustain the marriage into the decades long after there are no more needy children living under our roof. It's not about trying every new restaurant in town, it's not about going to a movie together and getting lost in a story that we can chat about for days afterward. Date night is about maintaining the core relationship of our marriage and family.
So I was very happy when my loving husband found a family to swap sitting with so that we could go out on the 6th for our 10 year anniversary. It wasn't Vegas, but it was going to be 2 hours all to ourselves. (about Vegas, 4 years ago my husband's then employer stopped doing Christmas parties in the effort to combine the savings on an expense paid trip to Mexico for all the loyal employees, when my husband left to follow his dream of working with the University we agreed we would take that weekend - coincidentally our 8th anniversary to go to Vegas just the two of us as we had already arranged for the kids to stay with my parents - well my parents backed out, my sister decided to get married, and we used all our leave on that, and we've still never gone.) So 2 hours: we decided we best feed our children before we headed out, so we decided to include them in this part of the celebration. After a lot of whining about not going to the kinds of places my 4 year old wanted to go to, we agreed on appetizers at a nice fusion restaurant that we love, but rarely go to.
We went early (shortly after they opened for the evening), which was good, because it's not exactly a family restaurant and while they don't give you the evil eye for walking through the door with kids, I know that most people go to dinner there to escape the sounds of children. Wouldn't you know it that my 4 year old whined at the options (usually a very adventurous eater I might add) and my 16 month old son decided shrieking while in the high chair was his solution to not being able to run around and explore. My daughters were a bit floppy, but not audibly disruptive. Of course we spent a while talking about why we were all there. That this was the birthday of our family and the day we celebrate it's beginning at our wedding.
Now, I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but my oldest has a cow's milk and egg white allergy. Normally, it's not really a big deal, we don't really have to read labels because trace amounts are find, she just can't have pudding, or drink milk, or eat ice cream, stuff like that. Except that might not be the case anymore I suppose. Because as soon as we got to my friend's house (after making a wrong turn and driving towards a different friends' house and driving right past their house and having to take the scenic around the block route) it was my 6 year old who informed me she felt sick. Then she was sick (in the bathroom thankfully), and then we went home.
We did try to make the best of it. We stopped at redbox and rented a kid friendly flick. We got out the wedding video and watched the wedding with the kids, something we try to do every year. It sure wasn't the night we planned, but the reality was what most of our dates pass for anymore, with three kids climbing on laps and getting between us, sharing with us that down time and interrupting any attempts to talk about the stuff that matters to us. Not that it wasn't a pleasant night, and we are going to try for a do-over, but it was an anniversary we are already laughing about. I guess this is life as parents.
Laughing together is equal to the chats right? That counts, right? We'll survive this and still be holding hands on the other side, right? I think we will, but it'll be easier when our plans start to look more like our reality again.