For the past 8 years, since I’ve been a father, my social life has taken a bit of a hit. Actually the hit could be more accurately described as getting a roundhouse kick from Brock Lesner. Kids, it would seem, have no time for Happy Hours, spur of the moment runs to the casinos, or “guy’s weekends”. A crazy weekend now might include Family Fun Night at the elementary school on Friday, a sleepover with a friend on Saturday and a new episode of Suite Life on Deck on Sunday (and trying to stay awake past 10pm on any one of those nights). And so be it. I don’t need wild weekends away, hanging out with my friends, or haphazardly spending the extra money I used to have in my bank account on a chance for a double down Blackjack (maybe a little).
What I need are movie nights, even if the movie is Beethoven 7, sleepovers, and to sit down and watch their shows with them. I’m even starting to enjoy some of them (I attribute this to a form of Stockholm syndrome. I’ve been subjected to them for so long, my mind has convinced me they are watchable).
Despite all the fun I have with my kids, it is nice when the opportunity to get out for a night presents itself (you pounce on it like a Tiger Mom pouncing on their kid who just turned on the TV). This past Friday, the Red Sea of our jammed packed schedule parted, and the opportunity to get out presented itself. I had the chance for a date night! Just what I needed! What dad wouldn’t like a night out with his special lady? So Thursday, when I came home from work, I asked Hannah, my 8 year old, if she would like to go on a date with me on Friday (you didn’t think I was going to ask my wife did you?).
For the first 3 years of Hannah’s life, the 3 years without her little sister, all of our attention was on Hannah. I would regularly just strap her in her car seat and the two of us would go on Daddy and Hannah Mae dates. Since her sister was born, our dates had been much less infrequent. It had been too long since I got a chance to be with my daughter alone. It was time to push aside all the distractions and spend some time with Hannah.
Thankfully she agreed but only after I agreed that on our date we would get a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. I let her pick where we went, what we did, and agreed to pick up the tab too (which was very generous of me considering that kid has more on hand cash than I do).
We went to a local mall (I don’t know if she’s 8 or 13). Her favorite store, Justice, is there. They have a McDonald’s in the food court. Dad was paying. We were off. I should note, getting ready to go was a welcomed change. A quick swipe of deodorant and a fresh shirt and I was ready. Hannah had to tie her sneakers and put a ponytail in her hair and she was ready. Not once did she say, “I can’t get my hair right. I hate it!”, or “Does this shirt make me look fat?”, or “You’re not going to wear that are you?”
We got to the mall and went to the food court. Two slices of pizza, two small bags of Herr’s chips, and a medium Cherry Coke we shared was dinner. We ate. We talked. We laughed. Hannah talked about being married, how many kids she was going to have and their names (I pity any future boyfriends). I just sat back and listened. She asked me why all the teenagers just wandered around the mall and why they looked so goofy. I explained to her that’s what happens when you listen to Justin Bieber music.
We finished (I gave her the last sip of Cherry Coke) and ventured out to the mall. I held her hand. We raced up the stairs. She asked no less than 12 times if she could have a cell phone (answered ‘No’, no less than 12 times). We looked at earrings. We strolled through the toy store. We got to Justice. We browsed through Justice. Actually, it was more like we set up camp at Justice. She asked me what I thought of the clothing she liked. She gawked at the jewelry. I gasped at the prices but I never rolled my eyes or threw my head back trying to get her to leave (it usually works when I do it to her mother at New York and Company). I was content to be with her. I would have bought her something too but nothing stood out for her to get (thank god).
We left Justice and headed back to the food court. I promised my little girl a Shamrock Shake. We sipped our shakes in the car ride home and talked a little more.“Daddy, I’m glad we had a date.” “Me too sweetheart.” “You don’t think Emma (my 5 year old) is mad we went?” “No. Besides, I’ll probably be taking her out on a date sometime soon too.” “That’s good.” “I love you Hannah.” “I love you too Daddy.”
We got home and I got a good night kiss when I tucked her in to bed.
My Friday Date night managed to slow down the Mach speed of life. I put social networking, Facebook ‘pokes’, aspirational whims of writing, work, bills, and all other distractions behind me. That, as distracting as life can be, it never can take away what I really am, a dad. This past Friday I was a dad on a date with his daughter. And it was just what I needed.