Ah, Valentine’s Day…it’s the Black Friday for people who sell flowers, teddy bears and balloons out of their vans along interstate exits. Everything is pink, chocolate covered, expensive and loaded with guilt. Romantic.
We’ve never been big V-Day people. We’ve always done either a quiet dinner at a little French restaurant downtown (now closed, boohoo) or we’ve cooked something fancy together at home. No crowds, no over-the-top presents, and no pink.
HOWEVER…once we became parents, and the date nights grew to few and far between, things like Valentine’s Day take on a new importance. And so, this year we decided to go o-u-t. To a nice restaurant; one without loud music, high chairs and a kid’s menu.
Evan made reservations for 6:30. I asked him to move them to 8pm. I knew the easiest way to ensure zero worrying from me while we were out…make sure the kid’s already asleep. Grandma and Grandpa come over before dinner, we all hang out, Miles gets to run around like a maniac, then it’s bath, bottle, bed…and mom and dad are out the door. BOOM. Genius, right? I’ve learned these tricks from some of my veteran mom friends.
We got to the restaurant, and I asked Evan to text his dad. Twice. But after that, the first glass of wine was served and all was well. We were on a hot date, and it was awesome. We watched the crowd come and go, seeing young couple, old couples, singles, and parents. You could tell which tables had parents out with the kids at home…tables like ours, where I had no second thoughts about ordering another glass of wine, or getting dessert. When you’re out sans child(ren), you live it up. You eat with silverware instead of your hands; your meal is still hot when you take your first bite, you aren’t worried about whether the person sitting next to you likes their food. AND AND AND…you get to dress up! Dressing up before Miles meant wearing heels. Dressing up after Miles means wearing a necklace. One with lots of beads, sparkles and flowers. Things that a toddler finds delicious.
Something that surprised me were the tables of young parents that had their babies in tow. There were quite a few, even thought the hour was late and this was a dimly lit restaurant that isn’t super highchair friendly. Here’s where I felt my judge-y momness begin to show. A few tables down from ours, a couple had their daughter with them. She was still in a carrier, so I’m thinking four months at best. It was pushing 9pm; Miles had been asleep for an hour and a half. I tried to think back to the days of him as a four month old, and what time he went to bed…and I don’t think it was after 9pm. I felt bad for the little baby.
The couple seemed anxious and hurried, but also wanting to enjoy their time together. They took turns passing the baby, trying to soothe her as she cried, trying to feed her with no success. Finally, they put her back in the carrier and clipped an iPhone to the handle so she could watch it. Here’s where I try not to judge, but can’t help it. If you knew dinner would be a mild disaster by taking your baby out with you, why go? Why pass your crying child back and forth, then shove a phone in the poor kid’s face for the better part of half an hour? Because, to people like me, it looks like you’re being selfish.
And that’s where I start to feel guilty. I don’t know this couple’s story; I don’t know if they have no family or friends who could watch their little girl. I don’t know if someone surprised them with this reservation. I try not to pass judgement, because we each have different and unique circumstances, and at the end of the day we’re all on the same parenting team. But it’s hard not to judge, because seriously…have you looked at some of the people who are parents?
Your child with the Kool-Aid red lips out at Target at 9:30p on a Wednesday night. Your toddler eating chips and candy while you’re out at lunch. Your baby with the phone or tablet shoved in his or her face, while you hope they quiet down so you can eat in peace. You make it impossible to not pass judgement, people.
There are stages in parenthood, and each is different from the last. When Miles was a very tiny baby, we didn’t go out for dinner, but we would do breakfast. As he got older, we started going out maybe once a month. We have friends we consider family who do a wonderful job with keeping him. As his nighttime routine became more concrete, and bedtime came earlier, we started having lunch dates. If we wanted a dinner date, it would be a post-bedtime meal with just the two of us. And we never, ever felt as if we were missing a single thing. It’s incredibly important to continue dating your significant other after you have children; that romance and passion isn’t something you can live without. Sometimes, as parents, we just have to get creative with our time.
Babies are here for a flash, and then they’re grown. Before you know it, he’s a toddler, then a kid, then a teenager. Then he’s going off to college, getting married, starting his own family. Each season is different, and we embrace it for what it is. Skipping a few date nights now, during these months of 7:30p bedtimes and teething, is okay with us. And when we need some “us” time, we find ways to squeeze it in. Parenthood is an adventure, a circus, a joy and a balancing act.
I’m trying to not be that mom; the one who judges, who looks down her nose and thinks, “I would never…” because we don’t really know, do we? It’s not easy, but I’m working on it.
Just keep the iPhone out of the kid’s face, please.