Date Nights

Since we do have seven children, people ask us sometimes how we manage to get time alone together. Lots of ‘experts’ advise date nights, where the couple gets a sitter and goes out to dinner and a movie together. This wasn’t a real workable idea for us because when our children were younger, I was never very comfortable leaving them with a sitter, and anyway, I’ve personally never seen why going out to dinner (interrupted by the wait-person, seated near strangers you care nothing about, spending good money on something you’re just going to flush in a few hours) is so idea. Furthermore, that was usually out of the budget.

I will say that especially since our last move this is an area where I could be doing more to meet the Headmaster’s needs and desires, so this post is really by way of reminding me of an area were personal improvement is needed. I always have trouble adjusting my schedule and routine to a new move, and since I’ve known since we got here that we’ll be building a new home and so moving again, it’s been hard to settle into a routine. I’m still working on it. Meanwhile, these are some ways for those with small children and a smaller budget to work out some alone time together.

If your children are small enough to stay in a stroller (and preferably doze) then you can take them with you and have some ‘alone’ time on a walk around the block. You could plan an early morning cup of tea or coffee together at home while the children sleep.
You can team up with another couple and have a picnic at the park, planning that one couple will visit alone but in sight for a specified period of time while the other keeps an eye on the children playing, and then trade places.
Try reading a book aloud together (I am sure one of our infants thought Shepherding Your Child’s Heart was a bedtime story, because the Headmaster read it aloud to me while I was nursing the littlest one before bed) after putting the children to bed.
Plan one night a week to put the children to be a little earlier than usual, permitting them to play or read quietly in their beds while you and spouse have a quiet game of cards or play a board game.
Once our oldest children were old enough to be alone with the younger children,
we spent some of the nicest times together in our car in the carport right
outside the open window (so I could hear if I was needed), sipping a cappucino and
having some quiet conversation. Because I had a breastfeeding infant I hated to be too far from him in case he needed to nurse, and really, I was still concerned about the oldest children being old enough to be responsible for our lot, including as it did the Most Dangerous Toddler In The World, the multiply handicapped but still able to open a child-proof bottle of medication Cherub, and a newborn baby.
For a while we had a laptop that played DVDs. Actually, the Head Girl had it, but she let us borrow it. Once a week we’d get a DVD for us and a movie for the children. We’d fix snacks for all, but then take our portion in to our room and lock the door. The children were then old enough and cooperative enough to manage on their own, and the Headmaster and I could watch our DVD, talk about it, visit together, and know that short of bloodshed, we would be completely alone until morning.
There are other creative ways to find time to talk together without spending money.
The important things is to remember that the point is being with somebody we love(and that includes our children) not the mere location. Married people managed, after all, to live and love through decades of marriage centuries before they had the option of going out to dinner for the evening.

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  1. Posted July 12, 2005 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    A dear friend gave the Squirrels a picture book called A Quiet Night In when the youngest Squirreling ws born. Mama Squirrel recommends it for those times when your best-laid plans still just don’t work out.

    (Serious Spoiler coming for those who can’t get the book or otherwise don’t care: Mother Elephant is trying to set up a candlelight birthday dinner for Father Elephant, and get the little elephants bathed and off to bed first. Father Elephant comes home very tired and falls asleep on the couch after the little ones pester him into reading a story before they go upstairs. Mother Elephant falls asleep beside him while trying to finish the story. The young elephants cover them up gently and then take the nice trays of food upstairs with them so it won’t be wasted (final illustration of things falling off trays).)

  2. Posted July 12, 2005 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I can’t remember the last time we “went out to dinner” without the kids. We’ve always done pretty well with candles and take-out Chinese in the living room after the kids are in bed.

    TBH, if we had a couple hours to go out by ourselves, we’d probably just squander them at the used bookstore. 😉

  3. Posted July 12, 2005 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    You’re right. Though I do believe that an expensive, quality meal at a fine restaurant can be an experience that lasts a lifetime in memories, and is not always just something you “flush in a couple of hours,” I agree wholeheartedly that there is too much emphasis on spending money to have fun in our modern Western culture! there are hundreds of things people can do to enjoy each others company without spending money. we don’t spend enough time connecting with each other as people, and spend too much time trying to experience things in mere physical proximity to our supposed loved ones.

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