Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dream Dates

Julie and Steve fishing date
Once in awhile, someone will ask me the secret to raising five relatively normal, happy children. "Go out on lots of dates!" I always say. No, not the kind of dates involving sitters (though you need some of those too if you want a relatively normal, happy marriage). Instead, I'm talking about dates with your kids.

Early on, shortly after Evan arrived in fact, it became clear that Sheridan was going to lose 50% of our attention, and that figure would go down as more sibs hit the scene--and that would be true for the rest of them, too.

And so began the Seyfried tradition of individual outings with each parent and each child, every so often. Steve would take everyone out on their own for a "date" of their choosing, and I would do the same.

There was the afternoon at Funland when I almost sacrificed a thumb for PJ. We were playing Whack-a-Mole, and I was bent and determined to win my little love a prize. The whistle blew. I whacked away with the mallet. And whacked. And whacked. And finally dealt a stunning blow to my right thumb. Instead of a big stuffed elephant, poor PJ ended up with a sobbing, bleeding mother.

On another date, Sheridan accompanied me to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert and to dinner after. We ate Thai beef curry and glazed duck, 6 year old Sher chowing down like a pro: another diner actually stopped by our table to ask his age and marvel at his sophisticated taste. My Mr. Music politely said thanks, and added that we had just heard Brahms' Second Symphony. Fellow diner walked away, shaking her head (either impressed or disbelieving).

Evan was into a lot of action, which delighted Steve but challenged me. We usually compromised by going to an action packed, alien-filled movie, giving Ev at least vicarious thrills. Rosie was my shopper, so a trip to the mall was always the ticket. Julie and her dad bonded with afternoons at the water park. The kids always kept track of exactly who had taken who where, lest any of them miss out on parent-time. Steve and I felt like movie stars in those days, let me tell you, with our clamoring public!

Incredibly, even in their teens they asked for one-on-one time (albeit somewhere their peers were guaranteed not to bump into us). These were the rare, golden days when secrets were shared and future hopes discussed.

Evan and Elise, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu
Nowadays, the dates continue whenever possible. And, often, the kids now treat us (in Hawaii, Evan took me out to a lovely dinner every night). As a mom, I’ve made boatloads of mistakes--just ask my offspring. I yelled too much and expected too much and relaxed far too little. Regrets I have aplenty. There were so, so many times I wished for a do-over, and there are no do-overs in life.

But I think we got the “date” thing right. And that comforts me. I highly recommend them.

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