Tag Archives: reconnecting

Taking Off The Parenting Hat To Go On A Date

22 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

The last time I saw a movie with my husband – a real movie, in a movie theatre, with a giant bucket of popcorn to share – my firstborn son was about a year old. Because we just had the one child back then, and because one-year-olds who aren’t yet fully mobile are easier to manage than hyperactive eight-year-olds, my ageing mother-in-law was able to babysit.

We have gone out on other occasions, of course. We are regular patrons of a nearby dinner theatre that’s run in a barn – if once or twice a year can be considered “regular”. We go to the annual Christmas gala organized by my employers, and on the odd occasion, we’ll go to a party or a wedding.

For the most part, though, our outings include the kids. We frequent parks with slides and swings, and we go to restaurants where the waitstaff bring paper cups filled with crayons along with menus that the kids are allowed to draw on.

I am always hearing and reading about the importance of a couple going out on their own to spend time just with each other. I fully subscribe to that idea, and from time to time my husband and I make a commitment to have a date night once a month. But the logistics are so difficult.

People often assume that living with my mother-in-law gives us a built-in babysitter whenever we need it, and while that may have been true to an extent at one time, it’s not anymore. My mother-in-law is almost eight years older now than she was when we went to the movie that time, and instead of having one one-year-old, we have a six-year-old and an almost nine-year-old.

Finding a trustworthy babysitter is hard enough for any parent. There’s something very frightening about entrusting the most valuable things in our lives to people who usually aren’t old enough to vote. And when one of those valuable things is a vulnerable special needs child, the angst about it increases ten-fold.

Most babysitters do not know how to handle a special needs child. We have to find people who have some understanding of autism, are quick on their feet, and have the physical strength and presence of mind to restrain a child for his own safety. If it’s someone who can take the time to actually get to know the child while I am home, so much the better.

Usually, it’s just easier for us to not go anywhere by ourselves at all. But then our relationship definitely starts to take strain, because we are not paying enough attention to nurturing our relationship. Eventually, because of our increasing levels of stress, it starts to take some kind of toll on our parenting, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary.

Last night, we had the opportunity to go out to a concert – meaning that my husband had free tickets – and we had to scramble for a babysitter. The free tickets had come about unexpectedly, so we hadn’t exactly planned for an evening out. I desperately said to my husband that I didn’t even know who to ask.

My husband came up with the perfect solution. He asked M, one of the guys who works for him, if he would be willing to watch the kids for the evening, and M willingly accepted. M has kind of become a friend of the family. We invite him to the kids’ birthday parties, he came over for Easter dinner, and we eat out with him from time to time.

We completely trust M with the kids. He is so used to George’s autism that he doesn’t bat an eyelid when autism-related things happen. George knows him and likes him. James downright hero-worships him, and when we told him that M was babysitting, he practically pushed us out the door so he could hang out with his idol.

Safe in the knowledge that our kids were safe and happy, and that they might or might not tie M to a totem pole by the end of the evening, my husband and I headed into the city to see a live performance by Paul Weller, former member of The Jam and Style Council.

The music was every bit as good as we had hoped it would be, and my husband and I felt that buzz of happiness that you get simply from being with someone you love. M didn’t get tied to a totem pole. The kids behaved like model children. They were like the kids on those reality TV shows after the Super Nanny has whipped the family into shape. M said he would babysit for us again anytime we needed him to.

Last night, my husband and I renewed our intention to have regular dates nights to connect with one another, enjoy each other’s company, and just be.

How important do you think it is for couples to spend time together away from the kids? Is it something you manage to do regularly?

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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Groundhog Day

27 Oct

Edie sipped her tea while she waited for The Beast to boot up. She hated The Beast. It kept making her download updates that she didn’t understand, and most of the emails that she got were rubbish. Damien had bought it for her when he’d been transferred to Utah, insisting that they would have to communicate daily by email. She supposed that she shouldn’t complain. Other people’s kids moved away and forgot all about them. At least her son wanted to stay in touch, and to her surprise, their daily email exchanges had become a patch of sunshine in her otherwise monotonous days.

Edie’s gaze drifted to the picture of herself and Sammy that had been taken when they were both seven. They had been best friends: when Edie and her family had been rounded up and taken to the concentration camp, they had been thrust into a small, cramped room already occupied by Sammy and his parents. Sammy had taken her under his wing. Somehow he had made her feel less afraid.

The two children had spent hours playing in the tiny room, or on the small square of dirt outside. Whenever he eluded her during tag games, or outwitted her as they played with their makeshift Checkers set, he would smile, tap the side of his head, and say, “You gotta think like a groundhog.” Edie didn’t know what this meant or what a groundhog was, but it made her laugh every time. Despite the life they were living, they were happy in their own way.

And then, one day, Edie had come back to the room with her mother to discover that Sammy and his parents were gone. Edie did not need to ask where they were or if she would ever see Sammy again. She had become used to the people around her disappearing. She knew that they went into the big building at the far end of the compound and never came out.

Now, as she looked at the picture, she shed a silent tear for her sweet, funny friend. She wondered if he had been afraid while he was walking to his death. She gently touched his image and whispered, “You gotta think like a groundhog.”

The Beast had finally booted up. Edie opened her email and sighed as her screen filled with messages from people trying to sell things, tell her fortune, or entice her to try online dating. Damien called these messages spam, which Edie didn’t really understand.

In her haste to delete the messages, Edie accidentally opened one of them: an advertisement for Go Get ‘Em Exterminators & Pest Control. As she moved her mouse to the X in the corner of the message, a line of text in the advertisement caught her attention.

To catch the critters… you gotta think like a groundhog.

Edie stared at the screen in shock, her mind starting to race. Could it be possible that two people would come up with the same phrase almost seventy years apart? Or – Edie barely dared to allow herself to think it – could it be possible that Sammy had somehow escaped?

Could Sammy be alive?

With shaking hands, she picked up the phone and dialed the number in the advertisement. Although seventy years had passed, Edie instantly recognized the inflections in the voice that answered.

“Sammy? It’s Edie.”

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Carrie, who gave me this prompt: A spam email that turns out to be more than expected.
I challenged  femmefauxpas with the prompt: Tell us a ghost story. The kind you would tell while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows.