Date night the parenting way

Writer Danna takes us through the struggles

Image: Getty | Words: Danna Wills

We’ve been waiting for this for sooo long. We were supposed to do it last month, but I had a headache. And the month before, Theo had norovirus. And before that… I can’t even remember. Never mind – it’s happening tonight, finally. We’re going out for dinner… without Theo. It’s Date Night!

I get a cheeky text from my other half, Paul. “I can’t wait for you-know-what,” it says. I giggle. “Me neither!” I reply. Our local Italian, Geppetto’s, has a new four-cheese pizza extravaganza that we’ve been dreaming about for the past fortnight. We’re both so used to eating ham out of the packet for dinner and falling asleep in front of Masterchef… but tonight is gonna be effing mental!

It’s 6:37. In-laws were supposed to be here at 6:00 so we could get Theo to bed and I could get ready. Where are they? During dinner, Theo throws his bowl of baked beans at me. HAHAHA! I laugh, as I wipe them out of my hair. JOKE’S ON YOU, THEO – I’m having a shower in mo and I will be clean and glam and bean-free… where the hell are the in-laws? Our table is booked for 7:30! I need that four-cheese extravaganza.

6:53. The doorbell rings. “Sorry we’re late. We brought prezzies for Theo,” the in-laws say as they doddle in, but I’m staring at the tub of chocolates and toy ukulele in their hands. No! This is wind-down time, not chocolate-and-noisy-toy time. Gahhh! Theo has already spotted his treats and is clapping his hands. Right. Don’t care. Have to get ready. He’d better be asleep when we get back. Or not. I’ll deal with it later.

Bloody hell. It’s 7:08. No time to shower now, so I brush the baked beans out of my hair and grab the black tunic I wear to everything. It has a weird stain on it. Rusk? Ah, we’ll be in the ambient restaurant light. No one will notice.

As I walk down the stairs, Theo senses I’m leaving. He grabs my ankle and screams. “Mummy will be back soon,” I say, trying to free myself. He gets more hysterical – this new separation-anxiety-developmental-leap-phase-stage-whatever-the-hell has come from nowhere. I’ll read up about it later. 7:24. Gahhh. I need to go! Theo slaps a Mr Tumble sticker on my tights. I give him a kiss, hand him over to the in-laws and run out of the house. I can hear his howls down the path to the car. Is it bad that I don’t care? I’m freee! For just one evening, I’m me again. I’ll be able to eat my four-cheese extravaganza and I won’t have to share it… or keep moving my cutlery… or keep picking up crayons off the floor… or walk in mind-numbing circles around the restaurant to keep the little one busy! Ahhh, peace.

7:51. Geppetto is terribly sorry but he had to give away our table because we were late. I spot perfect blah mum Claire from Baby Sensory on a girls’ night out at a nearby table. She’s eating the four-cheese pizza extravaganza. I glare at her through the window until she notices me, and then I run away.

Paul and I head to Nando’s over the road, and find a cosy table by the men’s toilets. “Is that a new brooch?” Paul asks. “It’s rusk.” I tell him. No ambient lighting here. A toddler scurries past our table, and my heart pangs as I think about Theo.

Paul and I talk about work for a bit. “This is nice,” I think. Grown-ups chatting. Do I look like a mum? I wonder. Does everyone in the restaurant think I’m some cool 30-something, and not a dowdy mummy on a rare evening out? “I hope Theo’s OK,” I suddenly blurt out. Uh-oh. That’s it – the seal has been broken. No kid chat on Date Night – everyone knows that!

I show Paul a new video of Theo on his bike. And then this really funny video of Theo putting my make-up bag down the toilet. And look at this picture of Theo when he was just born –he was so tiiiny! Seventeen minutes later, our food arrives and I’m still looking at old Theo photos. I ordered the 1/4 chicken leg – the perfectly plump little thing looks just like Theo’s leg. “It’s so beautiful,” I whisper. I can’t eat it. I put the napkin on my lap and spot the Mr Tumble sticker waving up at me from my thigh. “Hello,” I wave back and start to weep. A baked bean falls out of my hair.

I sob all the way home in the car. “MAMA’S COMING, THEO!” I wail as Paul drives at… normal effing speed! What is he playing at? We need to get home! Theo needs me. I’m never leaving him again. I race all the way up the path, expecting to find little angelic Theo snug and sound asleep in his cot…

Nope. He’s still awake and greets me as I burst in. He’s holding an empty tub of chocolates and a broken ukulele, like the world’s worst busker. My in-laws look shattered, covered in puke. “From all the chocolate!” they explain. The house is a dump. Theo pukes chocolate on my black tunic as another baked bean falls out of my hair. Gawd, I’m over this already. When’s the next Date Night?

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