My sister-in-law mentioned recently that one of the benefits of parenting older kids is better dating. So true! No need for a sitter for weekend dates AND picking up and going out of town, just the two of us, no longer requires three packings lists, 27 pages of instructions to the lucky sitter, and eleven hours of deep breathing. I'd have to say that Sterling and I make a valiant effort to avail ourselves of this new-found dating freedom, but even now we get bogged down in the kids' activities, our own work and personal commitments, and just plain old exhaustion.
Recently, the planets aligned for a brief moment, and Sterling and I found ourselves home WITHOUT kids for TWO days. I know. That's never happened before in our 19+ years of parenting. It was weird and fun all at the same time. Just think: No driving anyone anywhere. No sharing the television (or Netflix). Heck, we even polished off the ice cream ALL BY OURSELVES. [Note to self: once kids are grown, do not stock ice cream.] Not wanting to waste this rare opportunity of kid-freedom, I called Sterling at work just moments after the last child walked out the door.
Me: "Hon. There are no kids in my house. I'm freaking out. I'll plan a fun date for us tonight, and you plan one for tomorrow."
Sterling: "No kids? What does that even mean?"
For my turn I picked up sushi (not from the cheap-o place but from the good place). I bought some good chocolates and a movie and set everything up in the living room. We ate up to the coffee table (with candles and pillows) and spent a good hour just rehashing the last week or so before we started the movie. The food was great, the surroundings were infinitely more comfortable than a restaurant, and no waitress was hurrying us along. It was simply good, quality connecting time. After which I didn't twitch so much when Sterling waited till the last minute to get ready for church, and he laughed good naturedly when I left him a car with no gas. Connection people. It heals a world of petty hurts.
The next night Sterling opted to go out. He planned a date almost identical to one we'd had before we became parents. We went out for steaks, then played miniature golf and raced go-carts, and topped the night off with ice cream. It was way more activity-centered than our typical date nights (meaning at 8:30, when we finished dinner, I had to stave off my old-woman-need to lay on the couch). But best of all, the slightly rag-tag putting greens reminded us of dating days of yore. It was actually much more fabulous than the family fun center might initially suggest.
By far, our favorite "typical" date night consists of dinner at a good restaurant and an hour spent wandering through a book store. A few times we've driven to a neighboring small town (we live in the burbs) for dinner, afterwards riding around the countryside (in a pickup truck) looking for our future weekend estate. We are seriously considering (there might be some arm-twisting involved) joining a fitness group together. We've long talked about getting season tickets to the Alley Theatre. In short, the livin' it up portion of our marriage is just starting. I like to see-saw between a sobbing mess that my kids are leaving and fiendish glee about some down time and free wheeling.
I realize it's from 2008, but I can't help but enjoy this Guardian article on dating as a means to reconnecting with your spouse. As a bonus, the article gives a cheeky, "M'lud," which, as an Anglophile, I find especially delightful.
There are a number of these His & Her 'lists' circling the Internet. Essentially, they are lists of questions to stimulate conversation between partners. I haven't tried them yet, but think they'd be a great way to focus on something other than our kids (who are lovely, by the way).