I love date night. Or date day. It doesn’t matter. As long as I’m out with my husband and the kids are at home with the sitter, I’m one happy mama.
But the last time we went out, I noticed something odd. We have acquired some strange habits along with our status as parents. With all of the books and websites filled with advice on becoming a parent, it’s crazy that not one mentions what it does to our social skills. The lack of etiquette is alarming. Social time management is completely lost. What people must think when they see us—it can’t be good.
Here are some of the new habits I’ve noticed:
1. We inhale our food.
Every time my husband and I go to dinner, we end up eating our food quickly. I’m not talking speed like Joey Chestnut, but it’s pretty close. Onlookers might be disgusted by our lack of self-control and etiquette. It’s not entirely intentional—it’s just what we’re used to. Mealtime with the kids is a hectic event where food is rejected, or pushed around the plate, or beyond. Ketchup is demanded. Up and down from the table we go, trying to get the kids to eat something. In between the chaos is when we eat. And time is limited. Once the kids are done so are we.
A parents’ night out is an escape from this, and habits are hard to break. Conversation is sparse and our plates are cleaned. Hot food is amazing. But when I think about what I must look like I cringe. This is bad.
2. We chug wine.
Like the food situation, this isn’t intentional. At home when I pour a glass of wine, it takes me an hour to drink it with all of the interruptions. It goes so quickly when I have nothing else to do but sit and drink. It’s a special adult-only treat that’s thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe too much. Some nights the result is only a headache the following day, or sometimes I start feeling like I’m in my 20s again. This never ends well.
3. We take a selfie and post it on Facebook.
I’m not big on selfies, and I definitely don’t have a “selfie stick.” But when it comes to date night, it always happens. My hair is blown dry and isn’t in a pony tail. I’m wearing lip gloss and earrings. I rarely feel like I look halfway decent, so I’m tempted by the selfie every time. Maybe we’re bragging. Or maybe we are documenting this event to remind ourselves that we are more than “Mom” and “Dad.” But no matter the reason, it’s guaranteed that one of us will post this strange and rare attention-seeking picture.
4. Dinner is done at 7 p.m.
We’ve downed a bottle of wine and eaten too much in attempt to counter the wine. We’ve spent what feels like hours at dinner. No such luck. It’s 7 p.m. and our date started at 6. Going home now isn’t an option. First of all, it’s not a date if you’re home before it’s dark. And second, the kids aren’t even in bed yet.
5. We feel old.
Our dinner is demolished before most people even leave the house for a night out. We’re tipsy off of two glasses of wine—okay, maybe three. We’re giddy to be at a restaurant. I look around and feel frumpy. Drinks with names that I can’t pronounce are ordered. And there we sit. We’re the creepy old people at the bar. Talk of the next destination is discussed. I think I hear “karaoke bar” and the first word that comes to mind is “loud.” Yup, I’m old.
6. We make random purchases.
Since dinner is done so early and we’re certain that we wouldn’t fit in at a “karaoke bar”—or be able to stay up long enough—we often take a walk. Random shops are fun without kids, and especially after drinking a bunch of wine. My husband and I have half a dozen huge smelly candles to prove this. Guess we should be glad that Costco isn’t near the restaurant.
7. We get home before 10 p.m. and go to bed.
Our dates are always fun. But paired with having two kids under 5 years old, we’re tired. And even if we have the energy for an epic night out of drinking and dancing, the kids still wake up before the sun rises the next day. And they are not understanding when it comes to exhaustion and hangovers. And if I’m honest, I can’t handle it anymore. Heading to bed early i s fantastic.
Date nights sure aren’t what they used to be. Maybe we should work on our table manners, and our social skills in general. But who am I changing for? If I’m honest with myself, this is just where I’m at in life right now. Maybe this is why the parenting books don’t mention this phenomenon. Perhaps this isn’t an etiquette issue after all. These “bad habits” could be better described as “coping habits.” Sure they are strange, but if I look around, I’m in the company of fellow parent date nighters, pre-kid date nights and post-kid date nights, each with their own set of endearing and not-so-endearing habits. Instead of being critical of these habits, I’ll work on enjoying them. Since before I know it, I’ll be the old lady who takes her dentures out at the table.