It was 2007, early fall/late summer, and the evening was a quintessential summer night. A gorgeous sunset, warm breeze and the sweet scent of dusk and soon-to-settle dew. We didn’t know it was our first date because, you know, we were “just hanging out”. My relationship with Jazz– my then date/now husband– has been very centralized around coffee experiences. Four Friends was the “good” coffee shop in town at the time, and if you were anybody, that’s where you hung out. We sat outside overlooking Rosa Parks Circle, a kind of park/community space/outdoor venue, smack dab in the center of downtown Grand Rapids. Jazz was wearing the same dirty t-shirt he wore everyday, along with the same dirty pants he wore everyday, adorned by a newly sewn patch. His mid-length, blond dreadlocks along with a faint waft of body odor was blowing in the wind (so dreamy). We sat and talked for hours. When we had finished, we stood up and he grabbed my hand. Panic set in. Not because I was repulsed by the romantic gesture but because I was so frickin’ excited. I liked him. Jazz was not like other guys. (sorry if you feel the need to barf)
Fast forward to the present. Eight years have passed. We’re married, live in another country and have, in my humble opinion, a pretty great 2-year-old daughter. That coffee shop I told you about, Four Friends, it doesn’t exist anymore. Much like our dating life at the present. The sad, honest truth about having a young child, when you don’t have a serious network of friends and family to relieve you of your parenting duties from time to time, or can’t afford a sitter until after you pay off your student loans in 45 years, is that you spend a lot of time not on dates.
We were sitting on the couch, Jazz was reading some weird science fiction novel, I was reading “A Game of Thrones”, duh, and we hadn’t talked much all evening (p.s. aren’t we total dweebs?). As a matter of fact, we had been rather short with each other for a couple days now. And while I was trying to read my book, I was really thinking about how badly I just wanted to go get a slice of pizza alone with this guy across the couch and pick his brain for a couple hours (well, really anything that had a proportionate ratio of carbs to dairy). So I put down my book and asked, “what if we start intentionally dating again?” Knowing our current circumstances, Jazz looked a little confused. So I explained further. My idea was this: What if we started thinking about dating as something other than just getting out of the house but more about creating a time and space that is focused on our enjoyment and interaction. What if rather than letting our circumstances happen to us we adapted our dating life around our current circumstances? For instance, what if once a week we each take turns planning a date night in? An activity, a game, a cocktail, a … number or endless possibilities. We started talking about making some subtle changes that would allow the space for us to willfully enjoy each other’s company.
So we’re going to try. And we want to share what worked, what didn’t, some really awesome meal ideas, cocktail recipes and fun stuff to do when you’re stuck at home on a Saturday night, in the hopes that it will be helpful to others who need a good “date night in” idea, or really just want to try a new twist on a Sazerac.
To kick off this little escapade, this past weekend my parents took Willow for 3 nights. THREE WHOLE NIGHTS. So we had like a serious date weekend. We deserved it after having only one date in the past 6 months. And in the spirit of what works and what doesn’t, weekends with the grandparents most definitely works.
We went to a crazy, hipster, indoor, music festival that we waited in below zero temperatures to attend. We visited numerous coffee shops, a really awesome brewery, and an art exhibit. We went out for drinks with friends and then slept in until the sun kissed our eye lids. It was sheer bliss.
And yet, my favorite part of our weekend, even in light of all the fun things we did, was the same thing we did on our very first date at Four Friends, having a three hour, uninterrupted conversation about nothing particularly important in the car after we dropped off Willow with my parents. It was refreshing. I would have driven all that way simply for that.
There are a lot things I had to un-learn about parenting when I became a mother and one of them is that having children ruins your romantic life. Parenting didn’t kill Jazz’s and my romantic relationship. Not at all, we are still very much in love, even more so in fact, and have all kinds of fun the majority of the time. It’s just that our life has changed and so I guess dating has to change too. I think the trouble a lot of people who are parents get into has to do with not changing, just expecting things to go on as they did before they were parents (that and the fact that all humans have issues and baggage and honestly need to spend some QT with a therapist on a regular basis, myself included). But it just can’t. Not at least until your little baby can drive and that’s way too long to wait. I don’t know, maybe you can wait and see if it will all flop, but I’m hoping you’ll eat nachos and drink martinis with us instead.
Here’s a figurative toast to love and dating in the swell of parenting. May you always remember, that once the baby is in bed, given a little imagination, the living room can be anywhere you want it to be.