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Reclaim the Romance! The (At-Home) Date Night

Date Night. Those words have quite a ring to them. But, for parents, sometimes a romantic evening out can seem more like a distant fairy tale. Maybe the budget doesn’t really allow room for a carriage ride and an elegant dinner out. Perhaps fairy godmothers, I mean, babysitters are hard to come by or too expensive. Or possibly mom or dad is just plain tuckered out by the end of the day, too tired to dance the night away.

You can spend sweet time together, even if it means staying home. Reclaim the romance! An at-home date night is just the ticket for reconnecting with the one you love. The following are suggestions for creating a delightful evening – for just the two of you – at home.

Host a private wine and cheese party for two. Choose two or three different kinds of cheeses. Add a sliced baguette, some grapes and a bottle of wine. Light some candles in your room and turn on some mood music. Use the opportunity to try a new variety of wine or cheese and relax together.

Watch a movie together. Guys, be prepared for a chick flick if you can. Peruse for romantic film ideas. Some to consider: A Room with a View; Pride and Prejudice; While You Were Sleeping; Howard’s End; and An Affair to Remember. Ladies, be willing to watch adventure films or comedies, if that is what your man really prefers. The point is to spend time together. Research a film that you would both enjoy.

Take a walk down memory lane. Bust out the scrapbooks or your wedding album. Turn the pages together and reminisce about your life spent together. Good memories can help us refocus and enjoy the moments that are happening today.

Play a game together. Think back to an era when choke-able pieces were not a concern. Trivial Pursuit, Sequence, Blokus, Uno, and Yahtzee are all great choices. What games did you play together? Choose something that is more fun than competitive. You don’t want to go to bed in a huff because you lost. A regular deck of cards has provided entertainment for years. Consider learning a new card game or renewing interest in an old one. Now that the kids aren’t around, plug in your gaming system and try your hand at Zelda or Super Mario Galaxy. You can even take your game time outside, weather permitting. Play a few moonlit rounds of Bocce or Croquet.

Be your own book club. Find a common interest (mystery, thriller, historical fiction) and cuddle up with a good book. Take turns reading aloud and discussing what is happening and making predictions. Throw in some yummy snacks for good measure.

Cook together. Chances are, regular dinner prep is a little crazy at your house. With several hungry mouths to feed, the purpose is simply to get food on the table. Enjoy the moment of creating food. C’mon, don’t you remember the romance of Ratatouille? Turn on some music, light a few candles and spend some time chopping and cooking together. Pasta dishes always seem to be romantic. Divide up the tasks (salad, bread, pasta) and get cookin’.

Have a candlelight dinner. If cooking is not your idea of fun, order from your favorite exotic, but inexpensive restaurant. Think about food you don’t usually eat with the kids; Thai, Indian, French or Chinese come to mind. If a restaurant is still outside the budget, peruse the frozen food or deli aisles of your favorite grocer. There are a number of elegant, prepared items to warm up at home. Sit together and eat your meal slowly. Discuss the day. Discuss the future. Tell funny stories.

Plan a picnic in your room. Something simple can be fun. Pick up a fried chicken dinner and pack a basket as if you really are heading out. That way, you won’t have to leave your room for something you forgot. Spread a blanket and eat on the floor.

Cuddle by the fire, in the spa, on a blanket under the stars. Atmosphere, people! Date night doesn’t have to be complicated. A few years ago, just sitting together and staring at a beautiful landscape was entertainment enough. It may take some getting used to, but you can reclaim those sweet moments of time gone by. Be willing to be quiet together, hand in hand.

Home alone (well, almost). Putting the kids to bed early is a prerequisite to the at-home date night. Skip their afternoon nap if you need to. Take the children to the park earlier in the day to ensure exhaustion (theirs, not yours) and a good night’s sleep. Feed them a hearty supper, read some stories and put them in their jammies. Do what you need to do to make a bedtime atmosphere. Certainly, don’t tell them that you’re going to have a “party.” Tuck them in bed, turn off the lights and disappear.

Now, one caveat: despite your best planning, something unexpected could happen. The baby might wake up colicky; your toddler may develop the stomach flu; the kids may smell something’s up and be really resistant to hitting the sack. This is parenting. But, as you’ve learned already, you gotta roll with the punches. Come up with a game plan to handle these minor crises (on your date night!) and then when everything calms down, go to bed early – together!

Jessica is a wife, mother of six and a freelance writer.

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