Worry not! I am here to help by giving you some handy steps to a fantastic date night at home! There will be a lot of references to what to do with your little ones so if you don't have them, either skip those bits, apply them to your pets or file this vital information away for future use!
Step 1: Clean the house
This is not to be taken for granted because, let's face it, one of the reasons we go out for nice dinners is to escape the chaos of our own pig-sty. So, take some time to clean up the joint. It needs it any way. You don't have to go crazy but there's nothing romantic about eating dinner sandwiched between a pile of folded laundry and your kid's race car set.
Step 2: Clean yourself
That's right! You heard me! Yeah yeah, I know you love each other no matter what and you're probably so sex-deprived that it doesn't matter what you both look like but it won't kill you to get out of your sweats and look your best. You don't have to put on a ball gown but some make up and a pretty top. For guys, shower and shave. Nobody feels sexy in a pair of fleece lounge pants and slipper socks.
|Chilling in my fridge|
at this very moment
Step 3: Food
I can't even believe I put food third but the key here is to enjoy yourself so if making a big fancy dinner is going to be completely taxing and make you dirty every pot and pan you own - don't do it. Order in or make ahead or make a simple one dish favorite like baked ziti. The most important thing is that it's something you both enjoy and isn't going to make anybody ill. Also, make sure you chill a nice bottle (or 2) of [blank]. It's necessary. More on that later.
Now, about those little people. What you want to do is get them something they love and is no work for you. For us, it's those stupid Kid Cuisine frozen meals that have very little nutritional value. (Sidebar: Those microwaveable trays they come make great kids plates and we use them over and over again!) For your kids it might be ordering a pizza or peanut butter and jelly or whatever they will eat without bugging you. If you are having appetizers, give them an appetizer too. You want them to be busy for as long as it's going to take for you to have a nice relaxing meal. Give them whatever they like for appetizers too. Cheese sticks, pretzels, chips. This dinner isn't about nutrition. You worry about their nutrition every other day. Tonight it's about getting to eat uninterrupted. Which leads me to...
Step 4: Staging
You want to set the little ones up in front of the TV (who says TV isn't a good babysitter?) with a favorite movie that ALWAYS holds their attention. This is not the night to try something new. If they've seen "Finding Nemo" 1000 times but they always sit for it, that's the DVD for you. You want something that is at least an hour and a half in length so that you don't have to get up to play something else half way through. You should set your own dinner in the dining room if you have one. You should also eat on nice plates. Guys don't really give a sh*t about this but girls do. We have pretty plates and we like to use them. If it's feasible to put some music on that is low enough for you to hear without disturbing the little tyrants watching "Spongebob's Mystery with a Twistery", then do so.
Step 5: Timing
If you typically eat dinner early, eat a little later. You may have to ply the munchkins with a late afternoon snack to keep them from gnawing your leg off. If it's bath night for the kids, wash them before dinner. (while you're at it, clean yourself up as well as mentioned in the all-important step 2.) If anything else needs to be done like homework or packing school bags for the morning, do it all before dinner. You don't want to be messing with that nonsense when you have a decent buzz from the chilled bottle (or 2) of [blank].
Step 6: Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
Maybe dinner isn't perfect. Maybe your husband forgot to shave because he obviously didn't read my blog. Maybe the movie isn't holding their attention as well as you hoped. Don't sweat it. This is where the bottle (or 2) of [blank] is absolutely necessary. During our last date night dinner, our son kept making up reasons to come in and ask us stuff. We started cracking up every time he came in and making jokes about it.
Step 7: Clean Up
This goes back to not over-doing the cooking, or, if you enjoy cooking a big meal, do as much clean up before dinner as possible. All you want to have to do afterward is pop a few dishes in the sink or dishwasher and forget it until tomorrow. If your kids are old enough to clear the table for you, even better!
Step 8: Afterwards
It's time to usher the tiny people off to bed. This is another reason why timing is important. You don't want to have enough time to get suckered into a game of Candyland or some other buzz-killing activity. Dessert is optional too. Sometimes we might just have a few squares of dark chocolate (as we finish off the second bottle of [blank]) or a small bowl of ice cream and a cup of coffee. If you are night owls, maybe you want to watch a movie or play a game. For me and my husband, we know the clock is ticking before the bottle(s) of [blank] have done their damage and we start to doze so we don't usually waste to much time with a movie. Just remember to proceed with extreme caution. It's evenings like this, and bottle(s) of [blank] that led to the existence of those to tiny people you just put to bed.
Happy date night, people!