Sunday, April 16, 2006

Out of sight, but not out of mind

mom's photoshopped family portrait

On a recent Saturday the stars aligned and the grandparents stepped up so we could step out.

“Date Night:” A sad two-word phrase that single folk scoff at and married folk have to schedule as if it were a dental appointment. The understanding is universal: If you have to plan it in advance your relationship’s romance would rather be napping.

Now everyone on Earth seems to know how important alone-time is for parents except parents. We spend much of our week away from the kid (and each other) in our respective jobs and activities. Reserving weekends for family-building seems only appropriate. But when you add a liberal dash of household chores into the mix as you try to schedule kid-friendly activities in between Journey to Ernie and the afternoon nap, you find the days just slipping away.

When we started performing dramatic interpretations of Winnie the Pooh (speaking to each other in the voices of the characters most closely resembling our moods), I knew it was time for some entertainment that carried a rating more restrictive than ‘G.’
After explaining the situation to Ittybit, who pleaded to be included in this magical dinner and movie experience, she finally relented as we helped “Amah and Papa” re-familiarize themselves with the locations of every possible food item the little queen might crave during our absence.

Bracing myself for a tearful goodbye, instead she begins gathering her play balls and ignores my continued presence. “Bye, Mommy. Bye.”
In case you weren’t already painfully aware, parents of small children tend to be unable to have conversations about anything else besides troubling body functions or behaviors exhibited by aforementioned kids. Date nights are no exceptions.

Through appetizers and drinks we discuss our non-existent potty training strategies; her aversion to water and soap coming anywhere near her skin, unless she’s playing in the sink of her own accord; and the potential that she is honing accelerated diversionary skills at the tender age of two.

When the meals arrive we inhale them, forgetting that tonight we have the luxury of time. Drumming our fingers on the table as the check arrives, the movie is still hours away.

“Should we call?” I venture.

“No. They’re fine,” my husband says, unsure.

We put the phone call out of our minds as we trudge over to the theater and wait in line. Even though we are silent, I can hear him thinking about snacks. Since we child-proofed our cupboards of virtually every food item off-limits to toddlers, we have been hankering for such contraband as popcorn, peanuts and sticky sweets.

We find seats and settle in, determined to leave parenthood behind for a few hours. When the lights dim and the film flickers to life on the screen we are transported back to our wild, carefree days when we could stay out all night, decide to go to parties at the last minute or even take off for the weekend on a whim.

We continue watching until all the credits have rolled and the lights come back up. On the drive home we discuss the magic of the movie with all the pretension of theater critics, and wager (with sly hope) that Ittybit will still be awake and entertaining her grandparents with her own dramatic exploits when we get there.

I lose. … She is fast asleep in her crib. But waiting for us in our room are the playballs, trussed up one on top of the other with masking tape and sporting a cardboard jewelry box “hat.” The gift is carefully balanced on the laundry basket next to my bedside table.

“Look, she built us a snowman,” I exclaim, as my mother fills us in on the details. And as it usually happens my husband finishes my thought: “I kind of wished we’d seen this movie.”

No comments: