With three kids under four, my days tend to blur together. Mornings into afternoons, tantrums into snuggles. I frequently float through my days feeling I haven’t done much beyond prepare food, clean up food, straighten up the house, and, mostly, wrangle small children.
The background can become a blur of noise and chaos. Someone screaming, another singing, a third crying, with the din of Super Why and the vacuum in the background. It can be difficult to differentiate between each sound, each emotion, each kid clamoring for attention. Wait, who’s tugging on my hand right now? Which one of you stole a toy from who? Who are you again?
Enter date night. But not with my husband.
When it all becomes too much: too much noise, a lap filled with too many kids, a toddler I haven’t really seen for awhile, we go on a date. Just me and a three-year old.
It’s nothing much. An hour or two. We’ve gone to Toys R Us and ice cream shops, from the local bakery to the wonderland that is the Target dollar section. We’ve gotten desperately-needed haircuts and followed it up with a visit to the coffee shop for hot cocoa. It doesn’t really matter what we do, as long as it’s fun, something a little different, and we’re together. Just us.
What matters is that I’m present. I see them, they see me. We have uninterrupted conversation (well, as much as a three-year old can have an uninterrupted conversation, that is). These kids of ours just want to feel known and loved. I go through seasons where I expect them to fend for themselves and just leave me alone and before I know it, four days have passed and we haven’t spent any meaningful time together. Forcing them to brush their teeth, reminding them to wash their hands, and telling them to put their plate in the sink isn’t exactly the idea of a good time for any of us.
Having twins first left me feeling like I was missing out on that one-on-one connection from the start. There wasn’t much baby bonding to be had with a sibling crying for my attention from the next crib over. The fog of sleep deprivation and early parenthood meant that I often greeted my husband in the evening with statements like, “Kid A did the cutest thing today! Or wait, was it Kid B? Crap, I can’t remember. Okay, so one of them…” Add in a third just two years later and my confusion (and sleep deprivation) only grew. As they’ve gotten older, it’s been even more important to differentiate between them, to sort out who is saying what, to have the ability to stop and pay attention without an extra toddler and a baby around. I started taking them on dates, the older two, the twins, just one of them and one of me. I saw them again. I re-discovered how interesting they are.
On these dates with my kids, everything slows down. There’s less pressure, fewer needs to meet, more time to just be. I feel invincible, unstoppable. After wrangling three kids all day long, I feel I can do anything — anything! — with one kid. I’m more patient, I breathe a bit easier, I enjoy their company, and we have fun together.
“Mommy?” Caden asked me in the car, during our most recent excursion together, “What’s a date?”
“A date is when you spend time with someone — just you and them,” I explained. “You go out and do something fun together because you like them and you want to get to know them better.”
“Oh. Mommy, I like dates with you. Let’s do it again sometime.”
Oh buddy, we will definitely be doing it again lots and lots and lots of times.
Whether you have one kid or five, I hope you can find the time to take them on a date sometime soon! Some of our favorite excursions have been to the toy store, bowling, or someplace special for a treat. What are your favorite kid date ideas?