All the buzz in the Married Mom World is about how we need to date our spouses. Get a babysitter and take a night out, they say. Pretend you're newlyweds. Take a night to reconnect. Strengthen and renew your marriage. YOU. NEED. THIS.
That's all good, and I don't disagree that a date night is a necessary component of marriage. But a few years ago, I decided that it was time to start dating other people, too.
Three other people, to be exact. My husband was all for it.
Full disclosure: the "other people" are my kids.
Yes, the kids.
Let me back up here for a moment. I'm a work from home, homeschooling mother, so I'm literally with my kids ALL THE TIME. This also means that they are together ALL THE TIME. So, I decided to flip the script four times a year and pretend they are only children.
One kid + One me = One date. Doing whatever in the world we want to do.
Sometimes, it is an early morning breakfast at Starbucks, complete with coloring books and crayons.
Other times, it is paddle boating at Shelby Farms, cruising along with only our conversation to keep us going.
Most recently, it was a trip to a fancy restaurant to try grown up food (hey, filet mignon) and practice manners from Cotillion.
Honestly, the location doesn't matter, and neither does the amount of money spent. The event doesn't much matter, either. What matters is that the focus is 100% on only ONE kid. No one else is clamoring for my attention. No one else is interrupting a sentence. It's just the two of us, rambling along about wherever our imaginations take us.
At the risk of sounding completely cheesy, the goal is simple: to give my kids sacred time where they are the most important thing in the world, just like when I was dating their Dad so long ago. Mind you, my husband and I never did go on fancy schmancy dates, but when we were together, we were focused on one another as if no one else mattered. We laughed HARD. We treated one another like we were the most awesome, interesting, beautiful people on Earth. We still do.
I want to instill this in my kids for several reasons.
First and foremost, they are (in my heart) the most awesome, interesting, beautiful people on Earth. So there's that. I realize that since there are three of them, sometimes they might feel lost in the shuffle, no matter how hard I try otherwise. A date helps us reconnect, so that they know how special they are to me.
Second, it allows them to be themselves without pretenses associated with their siblings or how they "should be." Rivalries are gone. Vulnerabilities are welcome. I find that each child brings out something truly unique in me, and I love exploring that as they grow. In essence, I can be the best version of myself with each child.
Last, and perhaps most important, these dates allow me to intentionally model dating for my children. One day, my son will take a lucky girl on a date, and he will need to recall how to treat her properly. I hope he remembers how he pulled my chair out at the fancy restaurant and which fork belongs with a salad. One day, my daughter might need to console a friend who has experienced heartbreak. I hope she remembers how take-out food eaten by a lake can soothe the soul. I hope they each remember how to truly connect heart-to-heart, regardless of money, pretenses, or the chaos of everyday life.
My ultimate goal is to make each child feel like the most special person in the whole world, whether we're doing a 5K for charity or getting a new hairdo at a "grown up" salon. The point is not what we do, but the memories shared.
Because one day, my babies will date other very special people, too.
And I hope they'll make them feel like the most awesome, interesting, beautiful people on Earth.