For every happy story I can tell about me and my girls, there's a dozen that never came to pass. Thousands of things over the years that I meant to do and never did. One of the big ones was date night.
Maggie is now an only child so it is less of a big deal when she has our undivided attention. After all, who is she competing with. But when Elena was alive, it was a big deal for each of them to get me or Kim all to herself. It was great to go somewhere with the two of them – and we often did. Kim or me would take the girls to the park or the library or wherever. But it was extra special when it was just one of them. No one to take turns with. No need to spend time doing what she wants.
One time Kim and Elena were out in Oberlin and I had to drop our computer off to be repaired. It was around dinner time so I asked Maggie where she wanted to go. She walked into the Chinese restaurant and inspected the menu and decided that this wasn't what she wanted today. If both girls had been there, she wouldn't have had this option. She wanted to go to the chain two doors down that specialized in ribs.
We sat down and she took out one of the crayons they had given her and circled the items on the menu that she wanted. Even though she had chosen the rib joint, she didn't want ribs. She wanted the kids pizza meal. She chose vegetables and dip for her first course and a fruit cup to accompany her pizza. The waiter brought her a root beer and she flirted a bit with him. She discussed the geography facts on her kids menu and chatted with me while she did the word search puzzle. Her meal came with a dessert – a kid sized ice cream sunday. We walked back to the computer store and I thought that in all my life this might have been the best date ever.
I was excited. When Kim and I were back home I said, "we should do this all the time." We should take turns taking the kids out one at a time. They just love it. We should do this all the time.
Oh, from time to time I did. Once in a while one of the kids was busy doing something and I got to take the other one out. Maggie's first two girl scout dances was just me and her. The last two were the three of us. One night when Maggie was busy doing something with Kim, Elena and I went to the Academy Tavern. Julie, a woman we've known there for fourteen years, treated Elena as if she was a grown up customer.
While she waited for her food, Elena engaged me in adult conversation. "So, Daniel," she said, looking to see if it would get a rise out of me, "how do you think?" I smiled back and we talked about this or that. Again, I thought, this is the best date ever. We should do this all the time.
I love these times I got to spend alone with one daughter or the other. I don't second guess the choices I've made in my life. But I do think that a regular date night with one child at a time is a wonderful goal. It sits somewhere next to losing weight, exercising more, writing a novel, and learning an instrument in my box of good intentions.