A Night Out is Different Once You Have Kids

A night out for me used to mean dressing up to look good for my wife, sharing a few drinks with her at Murphy’s Pub and grabbing a 10-sack of White Castles on the way home. Our bedtime was in the AM while our wake time was in the PM. The only two things I had to worry about were my wife and whether or not I remembered to close my bar tab.  

Nights out are a little different these days now that I’m a parent.

First, there needs to be a reason for a night out—like, it’s grandma’s birthday or we need a headlight replaced. Second, there is less emphasis on “looking good” and more emphasis on “finding at least one piece of clothing that doesn’t smell like baby vomit.” Third, bedtime is at 8:30 sharp (unless, of course, someone forgot to lotion hands or put on chap stick or wear the socks with furry toes or has to pee again). Finally, I have to worry about 100 million things, with the most pressing on the list being cleaning up all the magnet letters that are all over our kitchen floor and solving the mystery of where my youngest hid the remote.

Recently, we had a night out as a family thanks to my eldest daughter’s school. In honor of Catholic Schools Week—which is religious speak for having Out Of Uniform Days, Crazy Hair Days, Crazy Sock Days and, I’m not making this up, Science Class—the school hosted an amazing Luau Dance. For a small donation you could eat pizza and embarrass your child with your sweet dance moves, all at the same time! I find opportunities like this are rare, so you need to take advantage of them when you can.

Because these events are so few and far between, my wife and I decided to make the most of it. She and our daughters got all dolled up, wearing flowery dresses and other luau gear my wife picked up at our favorite costume shop. I broke out my beloved Hawaiian shirt, which causes my wife to give me the old look-up-and-down, from head to toe, with that gleam in her eye that says, "If you ever wear that shirt again, I'm leaving you."

We arrive at the dance and are greeted by many of the other families we know, also dressed for the event. We grab a table, but the minute my daughter spots one of her friends she's off. Once my middle daughter spots my oldest bolt, she's off. And when my youngest spots a piece of dropped popcorn on the ground, she's off. I sit for a moment at a table with my wife, as our kids run off. It's as if we are on a date. I smile and think about giving her a kiss, when my wife turns to me and says, "Are you seriously going to let her eat that piece of popcorn?"

Just then, a loud, God-like voice speaks over a PA system.

"It's time to get this party started. Let's dance!"

All the kids from the school, as well as some brave moms, are on the dance floor. It's a line dance, which is my favorite kind of dance because you don't really have to "talent" to participate. My daughters are all mingling, watching the dance with great attention. So I get up and join in. First a few moves to the left. Then a few moves to the right. Then stomp (right foot this time). Stop (left foot this time). Hands on your knees. Hands on your knees. Everybody clap your hands (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap). I lean over to my daughters and say, "This is so much fun. Come on out here and dance with me!" All three look at each other as if I asked them to, in unison, spontaneously combust.

"No thanks, Dad." It was like getting turned down by the prom queens.

I came off the dance floor a bit bummed. My daughters aren't even as old as my newest pair of jeans and they are already uninterested in dancing with me, their old, uncool (but pulling off this awesome Hawaiian shirt) Dad. My spirit had been a bit crushed. Then this older gentleman stopped me as I made my way off the floor.

"Don't worry. I've been there. Keep dancing and one day they'll come back to you."

That line really stuck with me. While I think that I yearn for carefree nights out like I used to have with my wife, I now yearn for nights out with my daughters—the same ones I often crack jokes about. And just as I'm ready to admit that out loud, my girls are off, playing with their friends and leaving me to dance all alone. The only hope I have is that one day, eventually, they come back and share a few dances with their old, uncool (but super awesome) Dad.

I return to my seat next to my wife. She knows I'm a little sad by this revelation, so she puts her hand on my shoulder and gives a sympathetic shake of the head. At least I have her.

"You'll always dance with me, right?"

"Not if you're wearing that Hawaiian shirt."

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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