Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Date night

My husband and I had a rare evening out on Sunday in honor of our tenth anniversary. Well, it was supposed to be an evening out. It turned into an afternoon movie, a break to take our daughter to register at basketball camp, and then dinner for two. Family obligations don't stop just because Mama and Papa want to go on a date.

I know some couples regret or even resent the changes that having children makes in their relationship. We're not one of them. Sure, we have less time for each other, but we never used that time together all that well in the first place. Before we adopted our kids, we would come home from work, eat dinner in front of "Jeopardy," and fall asleep on the couch. Now, we wait until the kids are in bed before we fall asleep on the couch. So actually, maybe we really have more time together.

We've had the kids for half our married life, and we're a pretty good parenting team. My husband shares in all the pick-ups and drop-offs, the homework-enforcing and the bath-supervising. I'm exclusively in charge of dealing with the school district, the doctors, and the therapists; I'm also in charge of the worrying. He makes dinner, does the laundry, washes the dishes, mops the floors. Discipline is mostly the jurisdiction of whoever gets there first, though the runner-up gets to second-guess and criticize. Preferably not in front of the disciplinee, but not always.

So a little kid-care interlude in the middle of our anniversary celebration was just business as usual. It rather fit the theme of the outing, actually. Our movie selection was "Disney's The Kid," a movie we could probably have taken the kids along to (though really, it's more an adult fantasy along the lines of "Groundhog Day" than it is true kiddie fare). And at dinner, although we didn't personally have to deal with children squirming and making noise and making messes, we couldn't help but notice the couple at the next table doing just that. Their baby was being good--only slightly squally--but their toddler was going to town. Rather like my son has done on more raucous restaurant occasions than I can count.

There was a time in our life as a couple when we might have found the tumult from across the aisle annoying--distracting from our conversation and dampening to our dining enjoyment. There was a time when we would have pitied those poor beleaguered parents and been glad we weren't in their shoes. And then there was a time, during our struggles with infertility, when we would have given anything to be in their shoes, screaming or no screaming. But now, we mostly just empathized with the Mom and Dad, having worn their shoes so very many times before. As the little boy shouted "MasterCard! MasterCard! MasterCard!" over and over until his dad let him hold the credit card, and then shouted it again when the waitress took it away, I didn't cringe--I chuckled. I wanted to tell the parents, "Don't worry about keeping him quiet, we have kids too."

And when he wandered toward our table, as he did repeatedly, I wanted to talk to him, give him a piece of the candy I keep in my purse to keep my son quiet in public, show him the toys I keep handy for similar purposes. Instead I just smiled, knowing that, when you're trying to make kids behave like civilized creatures, even the kindness of strangers can be embarrassing. But I wished them well as they scurried out of the place at the earliest possible opportunity. Who knows, maybe one day the parents will come there on their anniversary, and we'll be the noisy family at the next table. My son won't scream out "MasterCard," but he'll surely ask to see their keys.

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