We are very happy to have Jodi join us today with this guest post about trying to enjoy those rare “date nights” with small children… and trying to keep that much needed support of the “village” when you have a high energy child.
It takes a village.
By Jodi Flaherty, The Noise of Boys
Let me tell you about Henry. By all appearances he is adorable, healthy and normal. Just your average everyday two year-old. I have been fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom since my pregnancy with him. So, I will say I am in very in tune with his behavior. Let me elaborate on this, I should say rambunctious, curious and dare-devil toddler behavior.
It started “in utero”. Even then, Henry was climbing my walls. Able to drive his head uncomfortably through my pelvis while strumming his toes through my ribcage. He was painfully willful and desired to unleash this power and curiosity on world early. I was given a steroid shot at twenty weeks, when evident he would indeed achieve this quest- six weeks early. I thank that that steroid shot for strengthening his lungs. At 34 weeks gestation he thrived, but soon was an infant unhappy with being immobile. I ponder if the steroid, also contributed to some amazing baby strength and ability.
As a second child, Henry really had to learn to self soothe and is seemingly more self- sufficient than my older child. I also take for granted, that the world we live in, is not fully baby proofed or prepared for his mischievous ways.
Rarely without his helicopter mom, at 18 months we decided it was time for a much needed “mommy and daddy” date night. Admittedly, he had little experience being left with a sitter, but grandparents like this quality time, right? We were planning to celebrate my birthday. We were also on our annual, week-long, “family reunion” and lakeside vacation. There were over 60 aunts, uncles and cousins present to entertain. Still, as I got ready for our simple dinner I was plagued by uneasiness at leaving “my baby”. His brother wouldn’t even notice us being gone. But Henry would. Although a “trouble seeker”, with unimaginable climbing skills- he was equally quiet and shy. Yes, a quiet, fast and smart toddler. The most dangerous kind. Everyone assured me he would be fine. Go, get out and enjoy time with my husband.
Go have dinner, drinks, shop, dance and DON’T worry.
It was 5 o’clock. T-minus 2 hours and 45 minutes until Henry’s bed time.
I gave through instructions as I was being pulled away by hubby and didn’t make a big deal with goodbyes. I left written instructions in our room, along with pj’s and a sippy cup filled with milk in the fridge.
So this was it, we were off!
First restaurant we received a recommendation for was a biker style bar. Not exactly what we desired so we moved on to the second on our list. Time and schedule weren’t an issue; this was mommy and daddy time! Second restaurant looked okay, but we had driven past one five miles back that looked even better! We turned around and found ourselves, in heavy 5:30 PM lakeside traffic. Now there would be “a wait” to be seated, but this was okay! We were kid-free and had the luxury to wait!
What do we talk about? The kids, of course! Unfortunately I have to excuse myself to take a phone call from a friend back home in emotional need. This call, between chatty friends, went on about twenty minutes before I realized, I was on a date. Going back in to the restaurant we were seated and promptly ordered. With two kids under 4, you are used to; and appreciate the convenience of ordering fast. Finally relaxed, enjoying our beverages we begin talking and laughing. We lovingly share our meals with one another and talked about how we needed to do this more.
We decide on a walk to some nearby shops and to take in views of the lake. We enjoy a milkshake and sit to take it all in. It is about 7PM and the setting is beautiful.
Then I get a picture message. Oh yes! We have children. It is a picture of Henry in a bubble bath with his cousin, who is similar in age. His cousin is thrilled! Henry looks…well, he looks confused. So am I. He didn’t need a bath. I purposely took care of that beforehand. Also, he had been left with his grandparents. He is very comfortable with his aunt, but was everything okay?
Oh, my word. “Did he drive his grandparents over the edge?” I mentally laughed to myself.
No. We needed to leave. Right now. Date was over. Something is askew in my mind in this normal picture. I can see beyond it. My mommy radar is on alert and my mind is filled with truth. This child is non-stop action, regularly climbing my curtains and swinging from lamps. All very swift and cat-like. Toys rarely hold his interest; he prefers to spend his time unbolting the baby gate from the wall with his wee little fingers. As we drive back we nervously laugh about possible scenarios. My imagination fused with the everyday reality, offering less comedy to our discussion.
Arriving, family members comment things like “Oh, back so early?” and “Henry is enjoying a bath!” We see Grandpa. He looks okay, sweating a bit, but alive. Grandma, I am told was assisting with the bath. Hayden, our four year old is playing with his cousins and I am temporarily diverted and distracted. Then I hear “Mommy!” and see Henry running towards me, and in appearances, is just fine. Phew. Okay. I am there to begin bedtime rituals and decide all is well. Sort of. My mind is still curious, my intuition is still saying there is more to know…
Flash forward to a late campfire joined by cousins, grandpa and beer. Grandma hasn’t left her room since we have been back.
Finally I feel the courage to ask, “So, I am curious why was Henry in the bath tub? I laugh and continue, “to contain him?” The group goes silent. Someone has a deer-in-headlight look.
Grandpa, says, “he certainly doesn’t stop, does he?”
Cindy says, “You know, no one would judge you if you used one of those bungee leash backpacks.”
Someone mentions the boat dock. It is a blur. Everyone is nervously chattering about their experience. I say “What’s this about the boat dock?”
“…Well, all the kids were playing ball and all of a sudden Henry decided to run down the boat dock…”
“But, Lisa threw her beer and chased him down.”
Ready to cry, cousin Cindy says, “I am SO sorry. He hates me. I brought him to your room to give him a diaper change and everyone a break. He running amok and I accidentally scratched him with my fingernail. He wouldn’t even come close to me again!”
Shanna says, “I thought a bath would calm in before bed time. Edison, was super happy to have company, but Henry wasn’t thrilled.”
I sat there open mouthed listening to every one of them, tell a tale. Henry single-handedly managed to shorten his pool of future babysitters, in less than two hours. Never will anyone in our family voluntarily watch him until he is much, much, much older. He will always be a campfire tale to be told, that lives in infamy. The toddler, which required twenty people to watch him and may have even pushed some into early retirement.
Wife and proud mom of two mischievous boys. Background in marketing, real estate and travel. Contributor to book, Clash of The Couples. Loves coffee, chocolate, shopping! Thriving on, and most inspired by, the little things in life. You can follow her blog The Noise of Boys, find her on Facebook, and on Twitter.