“My lover spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me,’” (Song of Songs 2:10).
She reached for my hand, giggling, eyes wide and sparkling with mischief. “Come on, Mom, we have a surprise for you.”
I followed downstairs to the spare bedroom. A dusty VCR sat on the floor, hooked to our ancient tube television.
“Are you ready?” my husband grinned. I settled on the edge of the bed, a toddler in my lap, big sister bursting with excitement as she knelt beside Daddy on the carpet. Pop! The black screen sprang to colorful life, piano keys trickling in the background. I recognized a white satin princess, a raven-haired prince.
Our wedding video.
I thought we lost it. Through a couple moves and a basement flood, that priceless memento got neglected in the shuffle, until neither of us remembered where or when we’d seen it last. In honor of our tenth anniversary, my husband and our four-year-old daughter scoured the house until they found the videotape buried in a box. This was my anniversary gift.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I soaked in every frame of our wedding memories. The white roses, the vows, the dress my mother made.
“Do you like it, Momma?” our eldest asked.
“I love it, sweetheart. I love it. This is the best surprise ever.”
Then something strange happened. My daughter’s beaming smile melted into trembling lips. She climbed onto the bed next to me and bawled into my shoulder.
“My goodness, what’s wrong? Did something upset you? Are you sad?” Her dad and I exchanged confused sign language, baffled by this polar reaction. She was so excited to see the video! What went bad?
“No, Mom, I’m not sad,” she choked through raw wails. “I’m crying because I’m happy!”
That’s when I realized—I need to keep dating my husband.
Date night is not our greatest strength. The lag between our last two sans children dinner outings was seven months—pathetic, I know. Excuses are easy when we’re busy raising small kids. We’re tired, babysitters cost more than the restaurant bill, my babies want me to tuck them in—they’ll miss me. They need me.
No they don’t. Not on date night. Not as much as they need two parents united, strong, in love. They need to see Mom fluttery with anticipation of time alone with Dad, to see Dad clasp Mom’s fingers while he leads her out the door, blowing kisses to two little girls already immersed in the babysitter’s nail polish collection.
They need to know Mom and Dad are here for them, because we’re here for each other first.
It’s risky to convince ourselves we’re fine without regular dates—without time set aside to nurture our relationship, to rekindle the spark, to remember why I chose this person, why I love being with this person more than anybody else in the world.
Because we can get so absorbed in the routines and responsibilities—the teaching, cooking, cleaning, running, child-centric activities of each day—that we forget to make eye contact when we talk to one another. Then we forget to ask what’s on your mind or what are your dreams, until one day we wake up pondering dangerous questions like who are you and what happened to the person I once pursued with all my heart?
I’d like to think we wouldn’t let our marriage suffer. But nobody ever sets out intending to drift, do they? So how does it happen? Dates can’t hurt. They can only help.
When I witnessed our daughter’s sweet, unfiltered reaction to a video of her parents giddy in love, I caught a glimpse of my marriage through her eyes. And I finally understood. Date night isn’t just for my husband and me. Our children need it as much as we do.
So we made a plan. Hubby and I committed to one night out per month for the next year—a great start and a huge improvement for us—and we wrote the dates on our calendars to prevent letting them slide. Our January kick-off was a tenth anniversary celebration. I sat across the bistro table from my handsome groom, and when I told him I loved him, I looked straight into his eyes and meant it to new depths.
Praise God we found that wedding video. We won’t make the mistake of losing it again. More importantly, we won’t lose track of each other. If our kids want to see Mom and Dad crazy in love, they need not turn on the VCR. We’re going to show them in real life.