In de­fense of date night

The Enterprise - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

The con­cept of date night once eluded me. When you’re in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship, isn’t ev­ery night “date night”? Why pro­claim a par­tic­u­lar evening to be dif­fer­ent from any other night you might, say, go out for din­ner and a movie? What makes it so spe­cial that it needs its own la­bel — a mun­dane ac­tiv­ity fa­mil­iar to ev­ery­one?

Well.

It’s true that ev­ery night was date night when my hus­band and I were young, flush with cash and re­spon­si­ble for no one. So: be­fore chil­dren.

Now with busy work sched­ules, a mort­gage and a ram­bunc­tious tod­dler suck­ing the ro­mance out of our cold din­ners of left­over lasagna, date nights seem less un­usual and more nec­es­sary. Time to fo­cus, re­con­nect, re­lax. Time to have a conversation with­out “The Mup­pets” or “Mickey Mouse Club­house” on blast. A good op­por­tu­nity to re­mem­ber why we de­cided to do this whole mar­riage-and-kids thing in the first place.

We’re for­tu­nate to have fam­ily close by to take Oliver for an evening, but we try not to ask that too of­ten. Given Spencer and I both work away from home, our evenings with Oliver are fam­ily time. And any­way, I was voted Most Likely to Fall Asleep by 9 P.M. in sev­eral lead­ing polls.

But Fri­day was dif­fer­ent. I’d pur­chased tick­ets for a Cirque du Soleil show for Spencer’s birth­day — in May. Surely we’d be ready for a break by Au­gust and could find babysit­ters for a night.

My brother-in-law kindly ar­rived early, fol­lowed by my sis­ter, so we could get Oliver set be­fore head­ing out. I re­sisted the urge to be “that par­ent” writ­ing out in­struc­tions, help­ful hints and emer­gency num­bers. Watch­ing Oliver isn’t rocket sci­ence, but we do have our rou­tines.

“The num­ber for 911 is 9-1-1. Got it,” Eric said, salut­ing with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion be­fore shov­ing us out the door.

Ap­pre­hen­sion first coursed through my body: a cock­tail of parental fear sim­i­lar to won­der­ing if you re­mem­bered to lock the front door or turn off the cof­fee pot. But then the ex­cite­ment kicked in.

We were free!

While I love my son dearly, be­com­ing a par­ent means sac­ri­fic­ing cer­tain lev­els of free­dom and spon­tane­ity. Gone are the ran­dom day trips, re­laxed meals out and im­pul­sive ac­tiv­i­ties with friends. It’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble to still do those things, but they re­quire plan­ning.

I’m a list­maker to my core, so sched­ul­ing doesn’t bother me . . . though it’s not just “fun” ac­tiv­i­ties that re­quire co­or­di­na­tion. Ev­ery­thing is trick­ier with a tod­dler. Gro­cery store runs, post of­fice drop-offs, shop­ping for new pants — I mean, th­ese aren’t dif­fi­cult tasks, but hav­ing a baby in tow means your usual five-minute er­rands might take an hour. Your op­tions are to ac­cept that or ar­range the tim­ing with some­one else to al­low you to shop for potato chips and yo­gurt in peace.

I love eat­ing out (and have the waistline to prove it). Who doesn’t? Choos­ing any­thing you feel like eat­ing and walk­ing away with­out hav­ing to scrub a sin­gle dish: to­tal lux­ury. It used to be re­lax­ing.

Din­ing out now just means wrestling a baby with an au­di­ence — and pay­ing for the priv­i­lege to do so. That $40 goes a long way to­ward weekly gro­ceries, and we don’t have to take turns eat­ing be­cause our squir­relly son can’t be trusted not to up­end the ta­ble from his high chair or dis­turb ev­ery­one around us.

In short, it’s less stress­ful to stay home.

Given we were din­ing out alone Fri­day in Tysons Cor­ner, Va., land of ex­pen­sive hand­bags and beau­ti­ful peo­ple, we de­cided to live it up. Cirque du Soleil’s “KURIOS” was the main at­trac­tion, but let’s get se­ri­ous: I was most ex­cited about en­joy­ing an un­hur­ried din­ner — with an ap­pe­tizer! — with my hus­band.

Be­cause we don’t get out much (see: this en­tire col­umn), we agreed to splurge on seafood. With our di­sheveled hair and sneak­ers, I’m sure the server didn’t ex­pect to hear “lob­ster” leave Spencer’s mouth — but when we go for it, we re­ally go for it.

Only . . . we didn’t know how to go for it.

I opted for sal­mon, a safe and stan­dard choice. But when Spencer’s lob­ster ar­rived in all its glory, we ex­changed baf­fled ex­pres­sions. Nei­ther of us knew what to do. In ad­di­tion to be­ing out­side our nor­mal bud­get, lob­sters are in­tim­i­dat­ing. There are just so many . . . claws.

We laughed as Spencer squared off with his din­ner, and I used my smart­phone to sur­rep­ti­tiously search for guid­ance on what parts of the lob­ster can be eaten and which would make our fel­low din­ers snicker at us. I found clear in­struc­tions and read them qui­etly to Spencer, who fol­lowed along suc­cess­fully. Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy comes through again.

In all, the evening was a hit — and I didn’t nod off dur­ing “KURIOS,” a re­al­is­tic fear. It’s true that I snored most of the ride home, but that was close to mid­night. Prac­ti­cally a new day, and at the end of date night.

That can’t be held against me. Right?

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