There used to be a time when planning a dinner date was simple.
Him: Do you want to meet me after office tonight? We can go to *insert a restaurant, any restaurant as long as it was not a food court*
Me: Yeah sure! What time?
Actually, I take that back. We wouldn’t call them dinner dates. That was just eating out. Special dinners were reserved for the special occasions. Although Fridays in Vietnam were just as special as anything else. It was our “thing”. I remember the long lazy minutes I spent every Friday evening picking out my dress for our compulsory movie and dinner. I had all the time in the world to make sure my hair was perfect, that I was smelling just right, and that my heels were in tip top shape for all the traipsing around Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a whole different story that after leaving Vietnam, Friday evenings were about pizza and a movie or two while lounging at home (I blame the couch; it had no right to be so comfy that we found it impossible to detach ourselves from it) But we still had Valentine’s Day and birthdays for dressing up and dining out. For our second anniversary (the first we spent with family back in Guwahati) the Husband took me to my favorite restaurant in Singapore, and we toasted to “Two as Two” because by then I was seven months pregnant, and we kinda knew life would change by the time we clinked glasses for “Three at Three”.
Life changed, oh sure it did, and this blog has chronicled enough for me to spare you from having to read it all over again. All I can say is there was definitely no clinking glasses for our third anniversary, or for the fourth. From the moment Miss Munchkin was born, the three of us became a unit. We lugged her everywhere, from fine dining places where she discreetly enjoyed her meal under the nursing cover while we enjoyed ours, to busy hyper-marts where people jostled us, even as she tried to sleep in her baby carrier. We tried to do everything right, and until our parental instincts and experience kicked in, we did everything by the book. We fussed over milestones she didn’t meet on time, whooped with joy over the ones she met way ahead of her time. We drove ourselves anxious over the slightest sniffle, or a meal that went straight to the bin because she clamped her mouth shut.
Amidst all this, I think we forgot how to be a couple. We were too busy being parents.
Everyone around us would tell us that it was very important to put each other first at times, that we needed to take a break, or at least set aside time for each other. We would agree wholeheartedly, making plans to do something, anything, as soon as we could find someone to babysit the little one. It wasn’t like we didn’t have anyone; we had a live-in helper for the first year, but Miss Munchkin had already made up her mind that her Mamma belonged only to her and nobody else. She had also by then perfected the skill of wailing loud enough to pierce your eardrums, and had screamed for a record of 90 minutes just because I had dared to put her on the jumperoo. So yes, leaving her alone to cry and cry wasn’t the solution, but at least when she was little (well, littler) she used to sleep early, giving us the golden one hour after her bedtime. Any later that I wasn’t capable of coherent conversation anyway.
The older little miss grew, the more demanding she got. Because now she was verbal, she would push away her Dad’s hand anytime it hovered near me, yelling, “She’s mine! Not yours. You go away!” Her bedtime got pushed later and later until finally we all were sleeping at the same time. The husband and I started spending less and less time together until it dwindled to nothing. We wondered if we would ever get to spend time alone again.
Enter a chain of marvelously serendipitous events that together solved all my problems at one go. We found a nice little church kindergarten for the little one close by that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and a trustworthy live-in helper all in one day. From the very start, Jenny took to Miss Munchkin, and the little one reciprocated with equal if not more enthusiasm, and to cut a long story short, two weeks ago, the husband and I went on our first dinner date in almost three years.
I spent the day giddy with excitement, as though I was a teenager about to go on her first date. I took over twenty minutes just deciding which dress to wear, and come evening I was a bundle of nerves. Would he like the red lipstick? Would the new heels and the imminent aching feet be worth the sassy confidence they gave me when I wore them? Would the little one decide in the last moment that she didn’t want to let go of me after all? But then, the moment I stepped out of the house, smelling the way I did on my wedding day (I save that perfume to wear on special occasions only) just a little unsure on my feet (could be the heels, could be the nervousness) it dawned on me that I was finally on my way to meet the man of my life. Just him and me. No scanning the restaurant for a quiet corner where a chatterbox of a toddler could chatter as much as she wanted, no heaving the highchair, no interrupted conversations, or talking in the Mary Poppins voice mothers have perfected.
The evening was… so worth the wait. I had envisioned the look on his face when he saw me, hoping that he would notice the effort I had made into looking put together (I rarely do) and he didn’t disappoint. He took me to this nice place where they had live music, and over amazing food and free flowing conversation, we slowly started getting the hang of being us again. It took a little getting used to; we had to make a conscious effort not to talk about Miss Munchkin, and I did call in once to check if Jenny was indeed holding the fort, but still… It felt like a major accomplishment. Goes to show how it is always the little things that make a difference. Just day before yesterday we went grocery shopping (of all things) on our own, leaving the little one behind, but even that felt like a big deal. We made up for it by taking her to the beach park the very next day, though.
I know in a few weeks’ time we will get used to it, although it would take far longer for the novelty to wear off. We have a lot of catching up to do, the husband and I, and we have a whole lot of learning to do as well. It doesn’t take much to forget ourselves, trust me. With a little one demanding attention all the time it is very easy to forget that we need attention, too. So here’s to learning how to be a couple again. Here’s to listening, and paying attention, and making sure the other person knows just how much he is loved. Cheers to that!