Memory Lane: Date Night, Past and Future

My parents went on dates. Every week. I have very clear memories of Friday night babysitters coming over, and watching my parents walk out the door together, all gussied up.

Usually gussied up. At one point they were in a bowling league. Probably less gussying going on. But they each had their own bowling ball and bag… and possibly shoes. Can you buy your own bowling shoes?

I also recall them taking disco dancing lessons — hey, it was the ’70s. We kids used to clamor at them to show us the moves they had learned. I have an image in my head of my mother in blue bell-bottomed disco pants with a flowing blue shirt with a vest over top. Her red hair was permed into an afro (or as afro as she could make it, anyway). While I don’t recall my father’s outfit, I clearly remember his mutton chops. They boogied for us before they left for the night.

My parents made time for each other. It’s something I’ve carried with me, the memory of their date nights.

Saturday evening, Dan and I had dinner plans. I was feeding the kids while dressed in a robe. It brought back memories of my own childhood, watching my mom get dressed and put on makeup before she went out with my dad. She would wear a robe, do her hair and makeup, get dressed, and then — and this still amazes me — she would don her coat, and polish her fingernails. Then they were out the door for the night.

She still polishes her nails last thing. It’s a trick of hers I have never mastered. I can’t even get a manicure without feeling like I’m going to mess it up before walking out the salon door. Let alone get dressed for an evening on the town with my spouse and polish my nails immediately before leaving.

But Date Night is a tradition Dan and I are working on creating for ourselves. Like my parents, we are partners first, parents second. It’s tricky to remember in the crush of kid-stuff and schedules that are divergent (to say the least). We are looking into playing darts weekly, wine tastings, and dancing lessons. (Not all at the same time.)

I may never manage to polish my nails for date night immediately before leaving the house, but my parents taught me a vital lesson as I grew up. They did it without ever making us feel like we came second, but it was clear they stood united. The fact that their marriage was so very important to them — important enough for them to spend special time together on a regular basis — made me feel safe. It’s something I’d like to pass onto my own children: that as much as I love them, my relationship with their father is something special and (to a certain extent) inviolate. That as much time as I am willing to give them, I also have to give time to Dan (and he to me). And I hope that in doing so, in showing them our commitment, they will learn about marriage and love, and that they will feel safe.

What did you learn from your parents about love and marriage? What do you do on date night?

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11 thoughts on “Memory Lane: Date Night, Past and Future

  1. I think that’s a terrific idea which has the fringe benefit of keeping you from going insane with the kid stuff. Gotta recharge the batteries from time to time.

    Before you know it, Flora will be old enough to be left in charge!

  2. My parents did a date night most weekends too. And they also took disco lessons (I can still picture my mom’s burnt orange blouse with the silver pinstripes)! They were happily married for many years, but towards the end of high school, other things got in the way/happened, date nights ended, and a few years later so did their marriage. But in their “good years” I saw two people who had fun with each other and seemed genuinely in love (I still cringe when I think about the time they wore matching beach shirts to a friend’s graduation party).

    I think you two are doing a great thing and setting a wonderful example for your kids. Partners SHOULD put their marriage first. We don’t, and really we should (money is a poor excuse). But at least those rare times we go out, which is typically just out to eat, we appreciate it.

    • Something else Dan and I did for date night (for years) was watch LOST together. He made it a point to be home by 9 p.m. on that night; we didn’t tolerate any interruptions from the children (still don’t, from the girls — bed time is bed time!), we usually had beer or snack together, etc.

      I’m sorry that your parents’ marriage broke up, but it does sound like you have good memories to go on. That disco outfit sounds fantastic!

  3. Sadly, I think most of what I learned from my parents’ marriage was what NOT to do in a marriage. I like to think that I have been able to learn from their mistakes.

    As for date nights, they usually include dinner and hanging out with friends. We are lucky that my SIL is close and will watch the boys for us when we ask.

    • If you’re aware of the problems, I bet you are learning. I have to give my husband a ton of credit for overcoming some issues he saw growing up in our marriage. It means a lot to me that he loves me enough to do that.

  4. This is a great post! Good reminders…that we need time to take care of each other. I remember my parents going on date nights too…my mom getting gussied up…and being amazed at her transformation from Daytime Mom to Hot Date Mama! and I remember looking forward to having a babysitter! Usually because we had GREAT babysitters and we always seemed to have a lot of fun.

    We have a special challenge finding qualified sitters because of our two special needs children…and there are times when we are just so exhausted. we actually went to an early comedy show last friday and were home by 8pm before the kids were even in bed because we were both so worn out! how sad is that!

    • Not sad at all. Real. There was a recent date night that dan and I went home early so he could see the kids! He works so much that he feels like he misses a lot. He’s been getting better at really connecting with the children, and it’s wonderful to see.

  5. My parents didn’t have a lot of date nights so I don’t really have anything to compare to. Now that my sister and I are grown, though, they spend a lot of time together and are recapturing their relationship.

    I really needed to read this – my husband and I are having our first child in April and one of my biggest fears is losing us in the mix of a new baby. Sometimes a solution is just so simple you overlook it. Thank you!

    • Well, people say, “A baby changes everything” for a reason. In the newborn haze of exhaustion, it will be hard to remember that you are partners. But when you come out the other side, you’ll still have a marriage to tend to. It’s something lots of us forget, believe me. 🙂 Good luck!

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