I was recently asked to share my favorite marital or household practice with an engaged co-worker and it seemed like a good one for all you Catholic mothers (and fathers) out there.
However, this post has remained open and blank for nearly 24 hours. That alone should tell you a bit about our life. I love it and wouldn’t really trade it, but things can go undone and unattended for a long time if we’re not intentional about our actions.
Hence today’s reflection on the importance of Date Night.
Now you writers and English teachers out there are squirming at my capitalization of Date Night, but I’m going to stand firm on this one. In our house, Date Night is an event. Personally, I think families would be in a lot better shape if once a month Date Night was a national holiday. Point being, it is a proper name in our household.
Date night is a necessity for us. Since we had John Ross, Kevin and I have found that if we stay at home we don’t get much time to talk. It’s not that we don’t talk, it is just that we talk in between dishes, washing, baths, meals, and spills. It doesn’t leave much time for intimate or complex conversation. We’ve tried the wait until the kids go to bed thing, but quite frankly one of two things happens:
- We’ve both had long days and I decide it’s time for a “serious talk” and we end up arguing because we’re both so tired and short. (My dad reminded me recently that he and I had the same problem growing up.)
- We’ve both had long days and I pass out on the couch at 9:00. If Kevin doesn’t catch the sleeping slide before I’m really sleeping, it’s not pretty. (I have also passed my crabby sleeping habits onto my son, poor thing.)
So, we’ve taken a cue from my parents traditional Date Night and added a few fun twists of our own. We schedule Date Night every other week. Honestly, it’s on my calendar through next June. Call me crazy, but if it isn’t there it is way too easy to skip it or schedule over it. This way we can count on it.
If making the time isn’t the obstacle, tight family budgets often are. I am not going to sit here and give the old line of “if it’s a priority, you’ll find the money,” but I am going to say that Date Nights are a priority for us so we forgo other luxuries in order to preserve our time together. We don’t have smart phones, we don’t have cable, and we LOVE rummage sales. We get creative too. We swap sitting nights with other couples, offer our college girls a meal or two in exchange for a discount, and sometimes take picnics with us instead of eating out. We find a way.
This summer we’ve felt so blessed by a local summer series put on by the City of Green Bay. Each night of the work week you can find something going on for families. Since Thursday is usually our date night we been fortunate enough to enjoy a concert series held at a park right next to the local microbrewery. Kevin’s a member at the brewery (thanks Dad!) and so we get food and beverage discounts and free entertainment! It’s been great.
Beyond our traditional date night, we’ve stamped our name on a new version of Date Night that we like to call Family Date Night. On these nights we all go out for a meal or a picnic away from the house. I can honestly say that those evenings and meals are probably some of my favorites with my kids. They love the change of scenery as much as we do and the no-pressure meal is so good for all of us. We actually have a Chili’s around here and love to take the kids on Tuesdays when they eat free and we can eat from their 2 for $20 menu. John Ross now asks about “Chili’s Family Date Night”. Most restaurants have a “kids eat free” night and it is a necessity for any frugal family. In fact, I’ve often wondered if the whole “kids eat free” idea wasn’t first branded by the occasion of the loaves and the fishes.
But hold on, the best is yet to come. My favorite tradition is No Plans Weekend. In a world that calls families away for so many things, a whole weekend without plans is a rarity. For us, it’s mostly my parish life and speaking career that calls us apart on weekends and so I’ve become extremely protective of and sensitive to our need for No Plans Weekends. What do they entail? Well, nothing and anything. Contrary to their name, we don’t typically just sit around all weekend. There are two basic rules:
- We promise to make no plans ahead of time.
- We do everything as a family.
If we want to visit with friends or family, we call them to check in right before we leave. If we want to go to the zoo, we go. If we just want to drink our coffee on the deck and run around the yard, we do so. It’s been a fantastic way of preserving some of the spontaneity of our pre-kiddo years while also removing ourselves from the treadmill of our busy lives.
Getting off the treadmill is the whole point of setting aside specific family time. Even the most fun-loving, easy-going families can get caught up in the amusement park of life. Emotional roller coasters, educational merry-go-rounds, and the dizzying, tempestuous teacups of interpersonal relations can be exhausting and stressful.
We’ve found that our few scheduled dates are kind of like a lazy river ride. They’re just the kind of cool, leisurely activity we need to keep our family healthy and happy.
Amberly is either out on date night or awaiting date night. Feel free to leave a message over at her blog Woman at the Inkwell.