Date Night Meets Home Alone
Last night my husband and I did something we hardly ever do, and certainly don’t do often enough—we went out for the evening. Alone.
It’s not that we never go places without the kids, because we do. And it’s not even that we don’t leave them home without us, because of course we do, more and more, as they get older. I’m happy to grab my purse and toss a cheerful, “Don’t burn the house down!” over my shoulder as I head out for groceries or other errands, on the weekends. At 15, my son loves being home alone. He enjoys the quiet, the dogs’ undivided attention, and the freedom to read or game without interruption. Nearing 17, my daughter is only slightly less comfortable being home alone; sometimes she worries about when we’re coming back, but she, too, enjoys the spoils of a parent-free house (read: control of the TV remote and all the junk food she can find). Leaving the teens at home is hardly a new thing for us.
But last night was different, because last night was a weeknight and we had tickets for a show. I am embarrassed to admit I cannot remember the last time my long-suffering husband and I went on a date. This is terrible, of course, because “nurturing our relationship” should be high on the priority list, and it is, I swear, but… most of the time we have to do that nurturing from the couch while we talk about how tired we are. It’s not that we don’t spend quality time together, it’s that it’s hard to find ways to “do stuff” in the midst of everything else. Last night, we had tickets, so off we went.
Here I’m going to pause to point out that my youngest is just getting over the flu. He was the sickest I can remember him ever being, and even though he’d been fever-free for a day and was definitely coming out the other side of this thing, I was nervous about going out because I am an overprotective worrier. My oldest had homework and chores and made solemn promises to complete both, but I had my doubts. Our arthritic, hypoglycemic dog has been stiffer and crankier than usual in the cold, and I was worried about leaving him, too. But I was being ridiculous. Because: tickets. And the kids and dogs would be fine.
As I was writing this, I remembered the last time we had event tickets and abandoned the children. It was over a year ago, and I left an itemized list of instructions behind. Overkill? Perhaps. Yesterday I didn’t leave any instructions. Look at me, letting go! Trusting!
We all ate dinner together and then we adults headed out. All I said by way of preparation was that they could go ahead and set the burglar alarm if that made them feel more comfortable, but to be sure to turn it off if they needed to take the dogs out.
Well. Off we went—and we had a wonderful time—and it was quite a bit later than we’d expected by the time we were headed home. Neither of us could remember if we’d told my daughter (who was surely up later than her brother) to feed the needs-to-be-fed-every-few-hours dog at his normal bedtime feeding. I suspected we hadn’t as we hadn’t anticipated being so late. The bigger question: Would she still be up, with no one to chase her into bed? How awful would getting up for school be, in the morning?
We pulled into the driveway and saw there wasn’t a single light on. That was a good sign, right? Only sort of… turns out the back door was unlocked, the alarm wasn’t armed, the dogs were running around barking, and the family room was a mess. Also, the hour-past-his-feeding-time dog was hungry and also clingy. This morning we learned that while my son slept, oblivious, my daughter had tried to take the dogs upstairs with her, but the arthritic one didn’t want to go (and he can be a little nippy when perturbed, so she didn’t want to pick him up). Of course Duncan barked when left downstairs alone, then cried, so she came back down and tried to sleep on the couch. That would’ve been fine, but he wouldn’t stop poking at her and barking, so eventually she just left him and went upstairs to sleep. (She isn’t around when he gets his bedtime feeding, usually, so didn’t realize he was trying to tell her he was hungry.) None of this constitutes a crisis—though Duncan did insist on joining us in our bed last night, which is unusual—but I’ll confess to being a little annoyed.
This morning—that is to say, in the light of day, with my son bouncing around declaring he felt so! much! better!! and the dogs having forgiven everyone for the change in routine—I realized that any worry or annoyance about the mess or cranky dog was just… not that important in the grand scheme of things. (We did have a conversation about locking the door and setting the alarm, but I kept it light.) Everyone survived. My husband and I had a fun evening, just the two of us. My son had a good night’s sleep. My daughter dealt with some minor obstacles in maybe a different way than I would’ve suggested, but that’s okay. Everyone was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as it were, this morning. Life goes on.
On the drive home last night, my husband and I got into a discussion about whether we’re getting older in normal ways or experiencing true cognitive decline. (I am experiencing a disturbing trend, more and more, where I open up my mouth and the wrong word pops out. Worse, sometimes it takes me a few beats to realize it. To wit: I was trying to tell one of the kids to take their pills, and I said, “Take your peas!” My husband, on the other hand, says he’ll sort of slur/mispronounce a word on the first try. We were both horrified and relieved to discover we’ve both been wondering if we’re going senile.) We joked about how we have to hurry up and get in all of our quality time before we have to move into a nursing home.
Even as I packed lunches this morning (because I want to, not because anyone can’t feed themselves without me), I sat with the realization that my tenure in true child-rearing is almost over. We can go do our thing and they’ll do their thing and they might not do it the way I want them to and that’s just too bad for me.
We’re thinking about getting season tickets for this concert series so that we go out more often. I think it might be time to do that.