“Make time to go on dates with your spouse after you have kids” is common advice from weathered parents. I’ll admit, it’s easier said than done, but worthy advice nonetheless. Today, however, I accidentally discovered how important it is go on a date with my two-year-old.
It’s Saturday, and I planned to take my toddler to a birthday party at an indoor playground while my husband stayed with my son. We were really late and I was stressed. Even though I always have fun, I did the usual Saturday birthday party dialogue in my head “I should have just replied NO to the RSVP, can I still get out of it? No, it’s too late, I just need to commit. Why do people even have these things?” I know, I’m a terrible person.
My daughter did her usual stall-dance, demanding to wear a tinker bell costume and snow boots, even though it was 65 degrees. I was short and hurried. My speedy driving cut the 20 minute drive down to 15. When we finally arrived, there was a sign on the door of the lifeless indoor playground that said “CLOSED”.
You’ve got to be kidding me. I checked the invitation which revealed that the party was NEXT Saturday. Fail. I was devastated.
When I told my daughter, she responded with the most saddening little whimper-cry that completely broke my heart. I felt terrible. Like I had just told her that we eat the cute little chickens and lambs that she so lovingly plays with stuffed versions of.
There was a Panara nearby, so I told her that instead of going to the party, we could go get a cookie and then go to a park. She was at least ameliorated by the idea.
When we sat down side by side in a booth with the “cupcake” (it was really a muffin, but she called it a cupcake and I call that a win win), and my coffee, her eyes filled with life. I was able to enjoy her in a way I hadn’t been able to for so long. She was so radiant and so happy.
I realized in that moment, that with the responsibility of another baby, my capacity to take in the beauty that she exudes, has been limited. Before her little brother was born, she got this kind of attention from me on an hourly basis. Now, I’m more distracted by the daily demands of two little ones and the higher stress level means it’s easier for me to become frustrated with her, because, well, she’s two-and-a-half. But today I absolutely adored her and she soaked in the attention I gave her, like a thirsty desert cactus (with a pink flower on top).
At the park, we laughed and smiled. We exchanged kisses. We skipped together. She knew I love her and that I enjoy her.
It’s not easy to find that kind of time, or to take it. Usually one parent takes both kids to give the other parent a much-needed break. But after today, I think we will try to make space for a weekly date with our little ones. Beyond rekindling our love for one another (as might be the purpose for a date with your spouse), this kind of one-on-one time will start a tradition. One that will teach my kids how to have conversation and open up; one that will create space and trust so they can share their feelings with me when they need to the most.