Date-night dinners began about nine and half years ago. Rob and I set-out to “keep the romance alive” amid the happy chaos that accompanied new parenthood and two baby boys, born just twenty months apart.
I’m not exactly sure who came up with the idea (I’m fairly certain it was me), but we decided early on that it might be nice to have an adults-only dinner once a week. No kids, no phones, no computers – no interruptions. There were exceptions of course, and the guidelines have changed over the years, but I’m so happy that our almost decade long date is still going strong.
I know what you’re thinking. You probably assume that because the kids are a little older now, it’s easy to keep these dates going strong, but let me fill you in on a little secret. Are you ready? The older your kids are, the less time you have to yourselves. I’m sorry to burst your bubble if you were thinking that once your kids hit eight or nine, you might have a little more free time. It is true in some cases, but in many others what used to be relaxing evenings are now nights filled with carpools, hockey, dance, guitar, piano, karate, drama, basketball and homework. Oh, the homework. Then there are the kids who want to stay up until 9:30 to see the third period of the hockey game, or those who “forget” to finish an assignment. And even ones who think it’s funny to sneak flashlights into their room so they can read long after the overhead lights have gone out. Yes, free time is most plentiful in the early years, and the teen years again from what I hear, so make the most of it and enjoy a meal with your special guy (or gal).
This is how we have done - and hope to do - date-night over the years, but please feel free to adapt it to your own schedule and life demands. After all, those who eat together stay together. Yes, I totally made that up.
The Toddler Years
This was the time when date-night dinners were the easiest. We set the kids off to bed no later than 7:45pm, so we had an entire evening together. Date night was always on Wednesday, because it was the middle of the work week and it gave us something to look forward to. We alternated weeks, taking turns to be the one who prepared the meal and decide on how the evening would go. Whoever was in charge would choose the food, wine, music and decide if we played a game, watched a movie or ate in the living room, catching up on shows saved on the PVR. The recipient of the date night was in charge of getting the kids bathed and into bed - said person took care of the bedtime story, teeth brushing and the tucking in. This was how these dinners worked for us for a few years and the only rule was that both Rob and I needed to be very appreciative of the other for their efforts. Even if one of us was hopeful for something else on the plate (like, red meat in place of a bistro salad).
We found these years a little more challenging to fit date night in. There were times where we would completely forget about it, and other times where we purposefully ignored date night in order to foster the routine of eating dinner together as a family. On the nights that we did have a date-night dinner, we would make it incredibly fun for the boys. They would have their own “boys-night dinner” and would eat something fun like mac and cheese and pizza. Sometimes we would make them three or four courses, light candles and serve milk in wine glasses. They felt special and didn’t mind that we were eating dinner on our own.
This is the stage we are at now, and date-dinner has become a priority once again - even though it means we often don’t get to eat dinner until after 9:30pm. It’s definitely worth the wait though, for the one-on-one time we have to talk and catch up. We’ve gone back to our ways of alternating weeks and cooking for each other, and we’re also back to no phones or computers (shouldn’t we all do that a little more often? It really does feel so good to have some separation from the All Mighty Screen). We’re doing Wednesday nights right now, but that may change soon, as it’s already a busy night for us. Because the boys have evening activities they don’t even question eating before we do, and sometimes we eat on what we’re serving them, and others we just make something completely different. We’ve even been known to order in if we just don’t have it in us to make dinner a second dinner at 9:00pm
The Teen Years
I’m hopeful for date-night dinners to be a little easier when the boys are off doing their own thing, like dating (the horror), working part-time jobs and completing school projects. Those are the years when we may forgo eating at home, and we’ll sneak off to one of the many restaurants in our mental queue labeled “I hope to eat there someday”. But these are also the years where family dinner will become a major priority, and something I insist on, for I really do believe it’s the easiest way to connect with and keep tabs on the kids.
So, who's up for date-night revolution?