When you’re a divorced parent, you have to look for the positives wherever you can. And a month or so ago, I stumbled upon an added value I hadn’t considered before. An unexpected upside to the space and breathing room that two homes allow us to have.
See, her house is closer to our daughter Violet’s kindergarten. So an idea came to us, mostly as a matter of adult convenience. Violet would spend the night with her to make school drop-off easier. And our two younger boys would stay with me. It began as an isolated experiment.
What I never imagined though was that a strong and valuable tradition was about to be born. We ended up having a kind of magical night together. Then we wanted more.
“Guy’s Night” was born. (And so, by the way, was its simultaneous counterpoint: “Girl’s Night.”)
And it was nothing short of a revelation.
See, much of my marriage was marred by the fact that two hard-working parents were hardly ever able to carve out any time alone — which included with each other and also one-on-one time with each of our three kids. Oh, we could have probably made it happen had we really tried, I guess, but listen. I’m a very big believer in the notion that so many parents in the 21st century are operating in an overwhelmed state a lot of the time. I know that’s what happened with us. We love our kids more than anything in the world, same as any parent does. But we were with them a lot too, and the more time went on, the more we tended to just fall into the same old groove, or rut — depending on you look at it — night after night. And then year after year.
Date nights were unheard of.
By the time we got kids to bed each evening, we were exhausted. We sat on the couch and just sort of stewed in our own juices. We were in love with our children, but parenthood was taking its toll. And for whatever reason, we never caught on to that. So one-on-one time with our kids became rarer and rarer until it was basically unheard of.
Now, I look at what’s happening I think to myself, “Oh, the irony.” We got divorced and we’ve managed to work something into our family life that should’ve happened a long time ago.
Guy’s Night is changing my whole damn life for the better. But I also need to do this with my daughter. I need to start doing this with her right away!
Everything about Guy’s Night has become special. We head to the store, we get the same stuff each time, the stuff for our “special dinner.” And of course, there’s really not that much special about it on the surface of things. I buy a chunk of cheese, some green apples and carrot sticks, maybe some new ice cream bars if the last box is close to done. But what’s so cool about it all is that Henry guides me around the store, pointing out all the regular stuff that absolutely must be procured in order for Guy’s Night dinner to be perfect. We do not sway from the menu too much. Maybe a red pepper here or a some celery there, but mostly those things die a quick death when Hank realizes that they taste like something he never wants to taste again in this lifetime.
I put a plate together for him and one for me as the baby monitor buzzes in the background. We have the TV on, but it’s just background, really. Henry is wired right now, my friend. He’s four/ he’s jacked up on excitement and youth/ and most of all, most beautiful of all, if I may say so … he’s in love with his daddy, and with this time we get to spend together.
Just like I’m in love with him.
Why did I wait so long to do something like this?
After we eat together at the kitchen island and Henry tells me maybe 30 or 40 hard-rambling stories in a row (he’s four, remember), we head out into the thick of the LEGOs. I let Henry tell me what to do, I don’t care. I want to live inside his mind for the next hour or so. I hardly ever allow myself to do that. It’s just the way things go; you can’t try and crawl inside your kid’s head when you’re out there driving the car down the road or whatever. But here tonight, I’m liberated from the my daily grind, man. In a lot of ways, I’m not even his daddy this evening: I’m just his pal. And that makes me so happy I can’t even tell you.
“Dad! You make a lawng bwidge and then I’ll attach it my giant pizza parlor towuh!”
I have no idea what the hell Henry is talking about, but I’m so game.
“Okay, man!” I say. “But first, don’t you think we should have one of those Chocolate Eclair bars we got at the store?!”
My son looks at me, his beautiful, dirt-streaked face a ten-car pile up of uncertainty and surprise and hovering delight. Am I messing with him? Am I really actually suggesting to him that we ought to have some ice cream even though it’s almost 8:30 at night?
I stare through his eyes and bust out a massive smile and it hits him that I am indeed terribly serious right now. That’s it. He explodes into cheers and hurls Legos around as he levitates up off my cruddy rugs and screams his high-pitch Rebel Yell. Dude is happy. No, no, dude is ecstatic.
It’s Guy’s Night, you see, where the reigns are loosened and it’s okay to get a little crazy. It’s Guy Night, you see, and ice cream bars with our LEGOs is how we roll.
It just is.
And I can’t stop smiling.
And neither can my boy.More On