A couple of months ago, I was making conversation with a nice, elderly lady at church. And typical of mothers who do not know each other well, we defaulted to the topic of our children.
“Just thirteen months apart? That must be tough!” she exclaimed when I told her about Claire and Aerin.
“Yes, but everyone tells me that these first couple of years will be tough, but that it will be soooo worth it after that,” I replied. “How about you? How many children do you have?”
“Four. And they were all born right after the other, which was not uncommon back in those days. At one point, we had four under five!”
My eyes bulged out from their sockets. And here I was, thinking I had it rough!
“Any tips for a new mother?” I asked.
“Just take it one day at a time. But other than that, I’m afraid I don’t have much advice. Those early years were so hard that I seemed to have blocked a big chunk of it from my memory.”
I nodded understandably. My mother too, has trouble recalling the most difficult parts of her life. She calls it biological amnesia.
“Oh! But I do like to offer up a piece of advice to all married couples!” the lady continued. “Always put your marriage first, because without it, your kids wouldn’t even exist. Take periodic breaks from your children and just enjoy each other. Be sure to have regular date nights.”
“My husband and I used to have monthly date nights. But now, even that is difficult…” I responded.
“No, that’s not good enough. In the forty years of our marriage, my husband and I had date nights every Friday night. And we’ve only missed it six times.“
And that’s when my jaw dropped.
I remember mentioning this story to J and suggesting that we start having regular date nights again. But no actual plans were ever made, because we always seem so busy and so tired.
But a funny thing happened last month. As we were preparing for his parents to return to Hong Kong, as we began to mentally prepare ourselves for the long tough road ahead of us, we began to have weekly date nights every Friday or Saturday night. We never planned this — it was almost as if we had an unspoken agreement between us, to take one night out of the week to have a nice dinner, just us two, to simply enjoy each other.
We do not have babysitters; we do this after putting the kids to bed so oftentimes, we don’t even start eating until after 9pm. Our meals are not too fancy (it is usually steak, because it is easy to make and we both love a good steak), but we make it a point to use our good china and crystal stemware. Sometimes, we don’t even sit at the table. For example, this past Saturday we had our surf and turf sitting on the couch in front of the TV, watching the Knicks vs Pacers game. But we made sure to keep talking to each other, remembering how a shared love for the Knicks helped bring us together in the first place.
These past couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for us. Aerin is full into her 4-month sleep regression, and as a result both J and I average only about 4 hours of sleep per night. Claire is being extra clingy and moody, and we feel that this stems from her grandparents leaving — it is only understandable that our little girl would miss them and is acting accordingly. Add also the fact that Aerin is becoming extremely attached to me, which is not only tiring for me, but frustrating for J because she won’t even allow others to feed her or give her baths.
Even after we put the girls down for the night, I am usually running around doing chores while J continues working (since he needs to be home before 7 every night to help me put the girls to bed, he almost always never finishes his work at the office) — sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning!
But for those two precious hours a week, we are no longer parents or employees. We are simply husband and wife, remembering why we said “I do,” planning for our future, and taking a step back from our busy lives to enjoy each other’s company.