As a parent, each milestone your kids reach is special, and a cause for celebration. But there's one moment that you wait for, practically from the second the precious little darling makes his or her entrance into the world. Of course I'm talking about that most awesome of occasions: the first time you can leave them by themselves and go out to dinner like real adults again.
Now, technically our boys have been old enough to handle this for a while. But Husband and I aren't really foodies, and don't go to the movies very often...so we hadn't tested them out on the old Home Alone situation yet...until this past weekend, that is. Some friends of ours wanted to have an "adults-only" restaurant night before we move, so we put the kids on notice that they would be in charge of feeding themselves and going to bed while we were gone. The teenager, naturally, was completely blase about the whole thing. I believe his actual response was to give a little shrug and say, "Eh, okay." Riley, on the other hand, expressed a bit of...nervousness...at being left without his customary level of parental supervision--even if only for a few short hours.
We did our best to dutifully prepare them for the trials they might face--you know, potentially terrifying ordeals like, say...microwaving their own hotdogs for dinner. Then I asked each of them separately what time they planned to turn in for the evening. They each passed that particular quiz by answering with the appropriate, Mom-approved hour for a school night. Next I made them some couscous to go with their franks, saving them from having to deal with any actual cooking...we reviewed the nuking procedures one more time, just to be safe...we made sure they had each of our cell phone numbers...and finally, there was nothing else to do but (cross our fingers and) head out the door for our grown-up fun.
And we did, indeed, have a fabulous time. There was lively conversation (without any need to edit at all)...there were adult beverages...there was no one requesting to share food! Ahh, soooo relaxing and enjoyable. I did receive exactly one text from Derek during the course of the meal, inquiring as to what he should do with...the empty pot. (Um...put it in the sink? How about those real-world problem solving skills, huh? So...not quite ready to be out on his own yet...oh well, he's still got plenty of time...) When we arrived home, they were snugly wrapped in their beds, and the house looked pretty much exactly as we left it. We gave each other a parental high-five and called it a successful outing.
The next morning over breakfast with Riley, I asked him how he thought it had gone. "It was fine," he began tentatively. Then he paused before adding, "But I was a little lonely." I was admittedly confused. "But...your brother was here..." I said quizzically. "Yeah, but he was doing homework," Riley replied. Okay, still perplexed. "He told me he was finished with his homework." Riley explained, "He was getting ahead on some projects that aren't due yet." (Um...you'll have to excuse me a moment while I get a little sniffly at the delightful surprise of my teenager...acting all unexpectedly mature and responsible and whatnot...okay, I'm better now...) While I was still processing this stunning piece of information, Riley continued, "But he stopped early and came out of his room, because he knew I wanted to hang out with him and not be by myself." (Wait a minute, what? Now he's being...sensitive...and thoughtful, too? What's gotten into him?) And then came the final word from little brother, "And he tucked me in, too, even though he didn't have to!" (Okay, that's it, clearly he's being possessed by...something...who the HECK are you, and what have you done with my son? On second thought, what am I saying? I'll keep this version, please!)
Anyway, apparently the experiment worked out just fine, if the reports are any indication. Being left under their own care strangely seems to bring out their best behavior. And you know what that means: Husband and I can go out and act like our pre-kid selves--for a couple of hours at a time, anyway--more often. Whoo hoo!